#WeBelong, Day 1 of 7

I considered myself one of the ones who knew. Knew what to say and what things weren’t cool.


I spoke your pronouns with my whole chest. Bent over backwards to prove that I was one of the good ones. And, for the most part, you seemed appreciative.
I felt like I was affirming you. And modeling all the the things that should be modeled.

Then one day we were talking about a transgender patient on rounds. And, while gender had nothing to do with why she was hospitalized, that aspect kept taking center stage.

I could feel things getting weird. You shifted on your feet and stared at a spot on the floor. That’s how I knew.

Then someone said something that made you look up.

Them: “Well, this patient is still, you know, transitioning. Like from male to female.”

This patient.
You quietly cleared your throat and spoke.

You: “She isn’t transitioning. She has already made her transition.”
Them: “Oh. No, I meant, like, the patient hasn’t really done anything yet. Like surgery or hormones. That’s what I meant by that.”

The patient.
You spoke again.

You: “She did something big. She affirmed her gender to us and the world. That was her transition.”


You: “The kind of gender-affirming care she chooses is personal.”

I looked at you and listened.


Me: “Thank you.”
Though I hate the word “performative” I realized that I’d been just that. Because, in that moment, I fully saw you. And now that I saw you, I could see her.

Also known as “this patient” and “the patient.”

She. Her.

This trans woman who had already transitioned.
When we sat down for feedback, I thanked you for extending me grace as your attending. I admitted that I’d never had a trans learner on my team and had wanted you to feel safe—not in a fishbowl.

And you smiled gently and said, “It’s easier if you see me as a learner first.”
That was years ago. But having you on my team left me forever changed. I am so grateful, too.

And no. I don’t always get it right. But I do listen and try.


“Whatever we deny or embrace for worse
or for better—we belong.”

- Pat Benatar

#WeBelong 💛

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More from @gradydoctor

Jul 2
July 1, 1996

Her: “This one looks straightforward. Ran out of meds, feels short-winded.” *stares at index card* “Vitals underwhelming.”

I stared at her trying to look cool. Although cool is not what I felt.

Her: “You know where the Red Zone is, right?”
I mean, yeah. Technically I did know where it was from our orientation week a few days before. But I didn’t KNOW know.

She must’ve read my mind.

Her: “Don’t worry. There’s only 2 zones. I’ll be right down. Just go do the H&P and start the work up while I finish up here.”
She stomped her feet back into her clogs and walked off.

I turned her words over in my head:

“Do the H&P” — okay, that I could manage. But that other part? That’s what scared me to death:

“Start the work up.”

I wiped my face with my palm and bit my lip.

Oh no.
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I was rounding with my team recently and you were our new patient. A student had presented your case at the bedside. You listened intently and offered corrections where needed. After examining you, I paused and twisted my mouth under my mask.

I narrowed my eyes.
This didn’t make sense to me. And to be clear— it may very well have made sense to someone else.

Just not me.

You: “You alright over there, doc? Look like your wheels turning hard.”


Me: “You got me. Yeah, I’m just trying to put this all together.”

Like, your physical exam fit the story. And part of your lab tests and imaging aligned with the leading diagnosis. But then there was this other part of your blood work that threw a curveball.


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Time of death: 3:46 PM.

The ICU fell silent. A heavy cloak of sorrow pressed down on the room.


The familiar rush of heat came to my face. Next came the prickling in my eyes. Once the tears started I knew they wouldn’t stop.


I needed to get out of there.
She was my patient. And out of deference I knew I should still myself and stand in the awful with the team.

But I needed to get out of there. Before I started to cry.

Because we don’t do that. Not here. Not in front of people.

At least, that’s what I’d been taught.
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All hell broke loose.

Thumbs compressing a tiny chest. Meds. Intubation and O2.

And then . . . nothing.

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Him: “I got a bone to pick with you.”
Me: “Me?”
Him: “You.”

He pointed at me for emphasis.

Him: “I’m not so sure I like how you was talking ‘bout me.”

I sifted through my head to try to think of any verbal missteps. I waited to see what he’d say next.
Him: “I know you said y’all was gon’ do some ‘shop talking’ about me. But look like you forgot I was even there when you got to saying what you was gon’ say.”

I felt my face grow warm. I decided to just keep listening.

Him: “You talking ‘bout some ‘That’s impressive!’”
Wait. Was that the bad part?

My brow furrowed and I pressed my lips together. He went on.

Him: “But like, I knew from how you said it that you ain’t mean impressive in a good way. I mean, not how most things that impress a person impress ‘em.”

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I was sitting down doing some work in a quiet area at Grady one day and this little girl, who was with her grandma, walked right up to me and touched my stethoscope.

Her: “Are you a doctor?”
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Her: “For real?”
Me: “For real!”

I handed her my stethoscope.
She slung it around her neck.

Her: “Is it fun being a doctor?”
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She seemed to like that answer. Now she was putting the ear tips into her ears. I helped adjust them.
Her: “I can be a doctor, too.”

I loved her firm tone and the way she said it to me pwith full eye contact. This was a statement—not an aspiration.

Me: “You know what? I bet you can.”

She placed the diaphragm on her chest. Then her eyes widened.

Me: “What’s your name?”
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Regarding #ampliFRIDAY:

1. If you are planning Grand Rounds or national/regional conferences, I’m suggesting #URiM people you should invite to speak.

2. This is a way to increase the number of professors from underrepresented & historically excluded backgrounds.

Mmm hmm. Image
Because, for example, out of ~ 39K full professors in US med schools only ~ 300 are Black women. (Do that math—it’s <1%!🤬)

So while it’s cool to follow them here, I’m saying INVITE THEM and CITE THEM so that they can get promoted.

But wait—there’s more. . . . Image
I explicitly say “with honorarium” because time is NOT a renewable resource. AND because while the “honor” is cool, when you don’t come from generational privilege, it’s even COOLER with an “arium” next to it.*

*I am so serious. Image
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