With Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy still deeply on our minds, we at AAHC are particularly reminded of those qualities of Dr. King that made him such a compelling leader of so many. That he was able to so easily empathize with the experience of others; that he remained unflinchingly dedicated to achieving his objectives and to equality and the creation of a true American sisterhood; that he maintained composure and drive despite seemingly insurmountable challenge in the form of government, law, culture and prejudice; these are among the qualities that enabled him to lead as successfully as he did.
While we have made tremendous progress as a result of his work, life and legacy, the prejudices that he fought to remove from our laws, our schools and all of our hearts, regrettably, in too many cases, are still quite present and impeding. They take different forms, but we feel them in our lives too often – in the orientation of our public transportation systems; in the accessibility of healthcare and quality education; in housing and employment; in the daily burden of protecting ourselves from anticipated discrimination, while still trying to thrive and achieve communal comforts in an unequal society. We persevere every day in drawing attention to these injustices, and in working cooperatively to address them, as partners in a broad community that is not defined by ethnicity, color or financial resource. We persist and will persist until real equality has become something that may perhaps casually be taken for granted.
There are things that we can do in our own lives; in our own families and neighborhoods to make progress on these fronts, and we can look to Dr. King when we approach these challenges and the changes their address demands. Dr. King had an acute awareness of those things that he was capable of – of his strengths and of his weaknesses. He identified his partners in leadership tactfully, taking these into consideration, and his awareness allowed him to be a more successful leader. When we are aware of what we’re able, and of what perhaps we’re not, we can ask for clear support, and excel as individuals and as partners.
When we are confident that our positions are right, as Dr. King was, we create for ourselves a guide that keeps us on course to achieve our goals, in spite of roadblocks that exist. When we educate and inform ourselves, we build awareness of options, and we can determine which is ideal in achieving our objectives. These are all skills that enable us to live more complete and healthy lives, and the AAHC can support us in doing so. The AAHC provides tools, resources and programs to supplement the gaps in healthcare that is accessible to many African-Americans in Portland.
How to Get Your Doctor to Listen to You
Many of us have experienced our doctors as being aloof and uncaring, impatient and even condescending. Many doctors have trouble connecting with their patients, and the impact of that in combination with personal biases can make a visit to the doctor’s office particularly challenging, and even unproductive, for members of the African-American community in Portland. When we make a trip to the doctor, many of us are overcome with anxiety and can become tense when confronted with responding to the MD’s questions. The following are some points that may make it easier to navigate what can be a very stressful situation.
- Keep in mind that the doctor does, sometimes despite appearances, want to help you. That said, this does not mean that she knows very well how to instill comfort in her patients. Try to see her as an individual who has certain expert knowledge, and make your own effort to make that connection by being open;
- Listen to her questions, but don’t feel limited by them. If you think that the questions that your doctor is asking are not going to lead her to an appropriate diagnosis, elaborate in your responses. Respectfully and patiently tell her what she needs to know, and make sure she has all the information you want her to;
- You know your body and what you’re feeling better than she does, and your health is of the utmost importance;
- Feel free to ask your own questions. For you to be informed is vital, even if your doctor isn’t forthcoming. If you feel dismissed, persist;
- Be sure that you know which medications you are prescribed and that you understand why. Ask for a list of medications and follow-up instructions in writing;
- Make sure that when you leave the doctor’s office, you feel satisfied that you know everything you want to know, and that your doctor knows enough about you. Make sure you are very clear on next steps, and how you can continue your self-care.