Fellow Talk: The US Presidential Election Rhetoric: Not the America I Know
I came to the United States from India almost a decade ago in the pursuit of happiness and have been driven to contribute to medicine and patient care every single day. My ambition has partially stemmed from the values I have voraciously imbibed while training for years in medicine and cardiology in America: accountability, compassion, excellence, integrity, and respect. These values are now part of who I am, not only as a physician but also as a human being. These virtues are independent of my beliefs, color, creed, faith, religion, and sex, and they are in the DNA of the social fabric I live in.
This is why looking back on what I have been witnessing on the television screen, in my Twitter feed, and even on the sidewalks of my neighborhood for more than a year now, I cannot fathom how and why my adopted society is disenfranchising the immigrant.
Generally far removed from politics, I was glued to the news cycle over the course of this unusual election season. What I witnessed during the campaigns was in striking contrast to what I have experienced in America as an immigrant, as well as to what training in medicine in this great country has taught me as a physician. The kind of medicine I have been taught to practice here is a beacon of excellence that thrives on compassion and the desire to alleviate the suffering of others.
Over my time in this country, I have been immensely proud of the work completed by my colleagues in cardiovascular medicine and interventional cardiology, and by physicians overall. I witness respect and hope in my patients’ eyes each day, and my community has accepted me with open arms. My senior colleagues have supported me throughout my career, bolstering my skill sets and mentoring me like anyone else. I owe much of this to living under the umbrella of American values, where I can excel in my work and not be judged for who I am.
But the kind of schismatic campaigning I saw encouraged little compassion among crowds supporting the now President-elect of the United States. I also saw very little integrity, if integrity can be defined as doing something right even when no one is watching. The lamentable public displays of behavior by these crowds over the course of this election were disrespectful to the spirit of America I know. Condescending behavior toward women and the LGBT community has only added insult to injury.
I have only begun to experience the aftermath of it all. I have heard reports of discrimination from colleagues who are second-generation Indian Americans—some of their patients now demand to be seen and treated by Caucasian physicians, who they refer to as “real American doctors.” I have personally observed nonverbal cues when interacting with patients and families—dissent in their demeanor and disdain in their eyes—that I did not previously experience in my innumerable interactions prior to this election.
It pains me to see this great country being represented internationally and internally by the divisive rhetoric of this presidential election. But instead of harping too long on the past, I would like to look to the future with hope and optimism. I want to take this opportunity to urge colleagues in the cardiology community to reaffirm to their immigrant peers that America is fair, just, and nonjudgmental. Ensure that they know that the country we all live in still values and welcomes true talent from all across the globe, that immigrant doctors can still work hard and hope to excel, and that their contributions to medicine and society will still be revered and valued by their American colleagues. From my perspective as a foreigner and a physician, that’s what real America stands for, and my hope is that her real spirit will shine again.