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On Slaying Dragons

On Monday 1/23/23, I made my first return to Harvard since resigning my faculty position in 2016.

Those of you who know me, have listened to @3blackdocs podcast, or read one of my past blogs on career choices, understand how massive this was. Absolutely HUGE!!

It snowed in Boston on the day of my arrival - even the elements were welcoming me back. Cleansing my spirit; preparing me for purification and transformation. That snowfall representing the new beginning that lies ahead.

You see, I have been invited several times to return to the department as visiting professor - but declined repeatedly. Wasn’t quite ready to slay that dragon. How do you return to a place that minoritized & othered you? where microaggressions, discrimination and isolationism were part of the status quo?

For two nights prior to this visit I couldn't sleep. Closing my eyes brought me right back to those feelings of emotional pain and discomfort that became part of my daily existence when I was a trainee and even more-so when I became a faculty member.

On the drive to the airport I felt as if I couldn't breathe. Called a colleague, texted my assistant, even got

a pep talk from my kid. I cried... a lot. Like a child fighting sleep I was agonizing:

~STOP! This is not something I want to do!~

But just like that sleepy child, I realized the necessity of it and finally acquiesced - I needed to put this dragon to bed. Emotional trauma - the dragon that was impeding my progress, healing - my ability to be my authentic self. And so I girded myself with all the courage that could be mustered and moved forward.

Fortunately I had a half day to slowly get acclimated to being back on campus. The stomach churning subsided after I sought out and found a few friendly faces; folks I know were true allies from the beginning. Helped tremendously.

And I prepared my soul to do what I was summoned to do - be there for the trainees!!

As they went around the room and shared what they were hoping I would touch upon, it became clear that my brand of engagement, my professorial style, was not only wanted and sought out, but needed! Oh we got down and dirty. Talked through so many things related to training, practice, equity, inclusion, career.... it was amazing! Had several come up to me afterwards thanking me for my vulnerability and candor. Refreshing!

It took me a few days to recover. Not only did my introvert need to power back up, but I also needed time to let the snow melt. To let those fears, apprehensions, hurts dissolve. There is still some healing to do, but grateful I found the courage to slay!!! #Vanquished ~Dr. Karen



Hi, I'm Dr. Karen!

For years, I have been obsessed with understanding why some communities are more greatly impacted by disease than others. So as a medical/graduate student, I decided that I wanted to make sure that everyone had equal access to healthcare and we would no longer have underserved populations in the U.S.

This blog, and this site, is dedicated to the pursuit of eradicating health disparities and empowering communities and individuals to take charge of their own health. 

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