The Truth

Sara Nelson-Owens, MSIII

Let me tell you why I love him:


“‘Cause he is the truth, and he is so real, and I love the way that he makes me feel”

The truth

Not a fairy tale reality, but pretty brown eyes of affection and integrity, an integrity so true that I will

follow him, down the deepest, darkest and the most uncharted pathways of love, life and lust

I trust

In him the design of our relationship, as he brick and mortar lays a foundation that won’t be swayed by

earthquakes, hurricanes or waves nor bosses, friends or kids

I believe in him

See in order for him to be the The Truth, there had to be trust and with trust comes believing

Believing that


“The truth it needs no proof, either it is or it isnt”

And it is

Because faith told me and she ain’t the average girlfriend throwing salt ‘cause his life is bland, you see

faith believes in things longed for and unseen

so I carry his dreams!

And not like a burden to be laid at the alter, but an ethereal cloud

resting upon my shoulders

I vacation in the cortex his mind just be embraced by him

I reside in the corpuscles of his feet just to be carried with him

I eat, sleep and live in this man’s organs just to be surrounded by him


“You know the truth by the way it feels”

A feeling

A feeling that paints my soul with joy, that translates into a smile, a smile so commonly formed from ear

to ear just to let the world see my hearts truest reflection of him


“And if I am a reflection of him, then I must be fly, because his light it shines so bright, I would lie”

I wonder if he knows that he is…

The Truth


You are the Best

Erin Smith, MSIII

You are the BEST?
She said with a smirk
As she prepared herself to hit the dirt

The best of you is of others’ invention!
It spewed from her lips
Like unfiltered venom

You think you’re so smart
But your brain is a weakling
With knowledge borrowed from the pages of Wiki

A great taste in music
Of which you are so proud
Comes straight from that iPhone, from Siri, the Cloud!

That humor and wit
Has others rolling to and fro
Would they laugh at all if they too watched the Late Show?

Everyone says
You are a human compass
But where would you be without GPS?

Completely informed political views?
How informed must you be
To simply disagree with FOX News?

From what I recall
Your sculpted physique
Is the product of photoshop and printer ink

I say one thing of yours is truly the best
You lie and you cheat
To bamboozle the rest

Congrats on your achievement!
You’ve won this round
You’re also the best at pushing me out.


 Laeia Jackson, MSIII

This is the beginning

The rich land of kings and queens

Of pyramids and dynasties

And fertility, prosperity, eternity

In our eyes and in our blood is golden

A lineage that runs through the ages

This was our land

Tell us about their lineage

Long, everlasting, and enduring


This is the middle

Things have had time to get complicated

Our legs and hands are tied

And the sound of the whip

The crack against our back drips gold

A cold gold into the ground

That we chose to call our home

And sweat that tilled the soil

Diamonds in the hot summer sun

Tell us about our lineage

We run with barking at our backs

From the crack of the whip and a gun

Tell us about our lineage

But our race has just begun

Every eye is turned north

The source of every dream

The reason that we cry

The reason why we bleed


And this is the end

The end that never comes

A silence that speaks of dreams

The burning cross in your front yard

The end of a looped rope hanging from a tree

Here the stage is littered with bodies

The price of freedom paid

This is our land, our blood is in it

The destination that we cannot help imagining

The beginning of the end,

But only the beginning


Nathaniel Smith, MSIII

The color you were wearing when

we first met wasn’t quite purple

but neither was it blue (i

remember because your

eyes are the color of the

cloudless sky that summer)

…perhaps it was violet?

i knew a violet once.

she was pretty.

but this poem is for you,

cloudless –eyes,

not violet.


Raymond McDermott, MSIII

Lonely is driving through the city with the window down

Too late for dinner with friends, too early for the club

Lonely is voice mail and unanswered text messages

Lonely is much needed me time

that you fill with whatever you can find

gossip, BET, Jersey Shore, prayer, and affirmations

to distract you


Scientifically matter is defined as anything

having or consisting of mass

Force or weight equals mass times acceleration

Lonely is tangible, lonely is heavy, lonely has mass

lonely is matter; so by default

loneliness matters


It causes thoughts to race uncontrollably

thoughts of inadequacy

thoughts that question the need for being here

Thoughts accelerated


Weight equals mass times acceleration

Lonely equals mass, thought equals acceleration

The two multiplied together produce weight


Being lonely is a weight unto oneself

a heavy load to bare alone


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

To Be Known

Whitney Stansbury, MS IV

It begins in November, usually. Senior medical students all over the United States begin interviewing for residency positions. Our flight paths cross one another–Seattle to Miami, Boston to California, then back home again. A visible mapping of our travels would form a thick net of interconnected wishes and hopes. We hope to land ourselves into top programs of our chosen specialties. We hope to remember all the details of dozens of programs, cramming in hotel rooms before interview day. We hope to have the crispest suits and sharpest shoes. We hope for recognition. We hope to stand out. We hope to make an impression.

But where does the enjoyment and learning end and the simply performing begin? When do we stop tap dancing and start being who we are as future physicians? The question sits atop my cerebrum uncomfortably, because I’ve worked so hard….to go to residency and to work harder, of course! Well, no, that’s not quite it. I’ve had to stop and remind myself of my origins. I didn’t come to medical school to be impressive. I came to learn how to be a healer. And I imagine that it’s not much different than you. So how has the drive to be impressive shaped this interviewing season of my life? The true question is one that a wise man asked me once: “Do I want to be impressive, or do I want to be known?”

Residency interviewing season is not the time to tell people what they want to hear. It’s more akin to dating. You take the program out for a drink or for coffee and chat about what truly matters to you both, spilling out the contents of your longing hearts. Okay, perhaps it’s more like speed dating, but, still, this is a time for honesty about what matters to you. Becoming chameleons, compromising one’s true self to impress a program director in hopes of climbing the ranking charts is a regrettable act that lands students into programs that prove unsuitable and incompatible with their aspirations. Kinda like marrying a person under false pretense. Friends! This is a time to travel the United States, to have fun, and most importantly to be true to ourselves.  This is a time to be known and to get to know others.

But, in reality, how frightening is that? To be known instead of to be impressive is no feat for the faint of heart. We’ve also been striving to be impressive for almost eight years of our lives, and for many of us, longer, throwing up walls to hide behind for self-preservation. I will speak for myself when I say that performing continually is an exhausting journey–striving to do someone else’s best instead of my own. But that’s okay. There is time to take on the challenge of being who we truly are. I am confident that the challenges will prove to be a small sacrifice for the 3, 5, or 7 year marriage to whichever program you match. So from classrooms in our early years to private practices as seasoned physicians, let us all be courageous. Let us be ourselves. Let us be known.


On Days Off

Chris Salib, MS IV

He thumbs through a book of existential philosophy while doing calf-raises in front of the window of his bedroom. The sun floods the room. Yolk-yellow light on the floor warms his bare feet. He picks up the phone and calls his parents, makes sure they’ve done their morning walk. He asks them about their evening with friends, makes sure they have plans for the weekend. He kisses his wife awake in their sleep-tousled Saturday morning bed. She will make breakfast, he will take out the garbage and fix the loosened hinge on the mailbox.

In the afternoons he spends time at the park or outside a café downtown, with a notebook, people-watching, thinking of his patients that week. He daydreams, drifts in and out of himself. He loves his wife. He is reminded of Mrs J, Mrs K, Mr B and Mr Z when he sees an elderly couple sharing a cup of ice cream, walking down the busy city sidewalk. Everything is simple when there is no sickness.

He has dinner with friends. He and his wife have known the other couple for several years now. They laugh over tiny glass waxed candles. From time to time the others find him aloof, distant. He thinks about the fragility of life, how Mrs A’s cancer went into remission and the brilliance of her smile when she had heard the news, and 2 months later, how her daughter came into his office with stone-colored eyes, moist and hollowed-out, telling him how she had died in a car accident.

Regimentation, check-ups, teaching, education, patients, patience, keeping life simple, enjoying the simplicity, being adventurous and yet not destructive; the balance is painstakingly endless. There is no rest, only more or less movement. He thinks, he thinks, he rests for the night and returns to work. They say he is too serious, that he needs to relax, to enjoy life, to forget about troubling thoughts. He smiles and agrees. Yes, he must. He gazes downward and proceeds to the next patient’s room.


 Joy Inneh, MSI

Midnight. My lab partner and I stepped away from the body after a two hour dissection sprint. Our group was behind on dissections, so there had been very little talking – just working around each other. While he held up intestines pulling away at mesentery, I was in the body wall, freeing a kidney from its fatty prison, our gloves slick with formaldehyde and emulsified fat. Other groups had gone nearly 40  minutes ago, but we had barely noticed, so engrossed we were in our ritualistic cutting, pulling and probing. At the end of our work, a little heap of fat and fascia sat on our cadaver’s thigh. With a sigh, my lab partner began to clean it up and I sat down on the nearest chair, finally noticing the pain in my feet.

There is something about the gross lab that exhausts you – and anyone in my class will attest to that. But this was going to be the last time I came in for dissection work. The next time I would come to the gross lab would be for tutoring or for the mock practical – to learn, to consume. But never again to dig. Never again to discover. I’d been telling people all week that I’d be bittersweet about it.  My classmates scrunched their faces up at the thought. Who in their right mind would actually miss the gross lab?

Who could miss the choking smell of formaldehyde? The white lab coats that would never come clean again? The slipperiness of every surface in the entire lab? There was the stench that clung to your fingernails even after you had washed your hands twice over. Petty accidents like one of your lab partners accidentally flicking fat onto your face. Weekend nights spent pulling fascia. The fear and disappointment when one of your classmates pulled out an important “taggable” structure. It is nothing to be missed. Yet, I still feel annoyingly emotional about it.

“You gonna move?” my partner asked me, holding up one of the swinging metal lids. But I told him to wait. “Let’s just look at it.”

So we did.

We had done good work in the abdomen – our best work actually. Probably because the structures were larger and our clumsy hands had less of a chance of really messing up anything. Or maybe because we have just gotten better. Our probes and scalpels were no longer foreign metal tools in our hands but precise projections.

I remember the first day we opened the bag to meet the body we would become intimately acquainted with. I remember how my whole lab group had shirked away from the table because there was a human body lying there – a whole human. I remember how none of us wanted to touch the body. I called my mom after, a little sick, because it was my first time dealing with human death.

I remember my uneasiness but I also remember my first cut. I remember the first time we were finally able to distinguish a nerve from an artery. I remember our excitement when we first looked upon the beginnings of the brachial plexus, carefully plucked out of the armpit like a jewel out of the mud. And there other moments like that too – admiring the white intertwining tendons of the forearm, the large carotids in the neck. Amazed at the fine muscles of the face, the lifting up of the rib cage to get into the thorax, the great winding wanderer, the vagus nerve shooting its way down into the abdomen, and the uncovering of the heart from its pericardial sac. We had taken what was once a human being and stripped it down to its core to see what was inside. Or, as Dr. Jackson would say, to admire the work of “The Committee Upstairs.”

I wonder now, when did the change come? When did the body on the table become a cadaver? And when did my classmates and I go from bright-eyed MAPS students to hardened and weary medical students? One of our professors had said to us that their job was to strip us down, to dissect out of us the stuff that would make us Meharry physicians. But, unlike the cadavers in the gross lab, we can be built back up again.

Perhaps I’m bittersweet because the end of our gross lab course marks another change in us. Another milestone. An objective crossed off the list. I haven’t even finished a full semester of my medical education, but the person I was at the beginning is a far cry from the person I am now. This person is a little more sure-footed, more forgiving of her mistakes, can memorize and integrate more information more quickly and drinks more coffee than the daily recommended intake. The work is demanding, but the rewards are tangible and equal to the amount of effort put in. Just as we spend hours in the gross lab perfecting structures until they are clean and clear, we’ll spend the same amount of hours perfecting ourselves, removing the hindrances and keeping the essentials.

My lab partner and I close the body up. Our work in the gross lab is done. There are showers and warm beds somewhere waiting for us. Tomorrow the marathon continues. We will rise in the morning and start studying for our block exams and our final practical. Dr. Jackson told us in the beginning of it all that it was a privilege to dissect the human body, and a privilege it has been.



Tamera Means, M.D., ‘15

As physicians in training, one of the treatment plans/ phrases we learn to use is “lifestyle changes.” Obviously, if our patients are able to exercise more frequently, eat healthier, decrease their stress levels, and quit smoking, they can dramatically improve their overall health— and not to mention, we would find our workload substantially reduced. However, as student doctors, we rarely practice what we preach. I’m sure all of us can recall at least one incident when we decided to skip our exercise routine, grab some fast food on the way home, or forego time for relaxing. Let’s face it: medical school is hard. With this busy lifestyle it is easy to feel like there is no time to take care of oneself. We often forget that our own mental and physical healths are just as important as our patients’. So instead of completely ignoring our own well-being, here are a few of the top free apps (available on most electron- ic devices) designed to help fit health improvement into even the busiest lifestyles.



Calm is perfect for people interested in lowering stress through meditation. This app provides both guided and silent meditation. For those new to meditation, this app provides an introductory program, which teaches you the basics of meditation and how to incorporate it into your daily lives. It also has meditation sessions as short as 10, 5, or 2 minutes. Come on, who doesn’t have two min- utes?!

Simple Yoga

This app is perfect for those new to yoga because it has a “dumb it down” option! The dumb it down option comes with a personal trainer who demonstrates a yoga pose and provides instructions on how to perform the move. It’s a perfect introduction to yoga without all the awkward- ness of getting lost during a class. For those who already know how to do most yoga poses, the app allows you to turn off the instruction mode so you can just follow along with the instructor.


MyFitness Pal

MyFitness Pal is the king of calorie tracking—like the swiss army knife of healthy apps. It keeps track of your calories, nutrition, water intake, goals, etc. However its ability to sync with other apps is what puts it on this top app list. For instance, it can sync with several exercise apps such as Run Keeper or Pacer Pedometer. This way you can make sure you get credit for the calories you burn off. MyFitness pal is also useful for recording meals be- cause it stores your recipes. So after you make an entry the first time, you won’t have to enter the items again.


Shopwell is a convenient nutritional app to use at the gro- cery store. It basically takes all the food’s information off the nutritional label and grades the product on nutritional value. I like it because I can search a food item or just scan the barcode and Shopwell brings up the product’s nutritional score plus more healthy options. For exam- ple, if I type in Oreos, Shopwell brings up the nutrition score for these and several other cookie alternatives that are healthier than Oreos, but similar in taste.


Workout Trainer by Skimble Workout trainer is an app that provides workouts based on free virtual personal trainers, step by step audio in- structions, and allows you to track and share your work- out progress! I love it because it has a large variety of workouts—from heavy cardio, strength training, yoga to dance. The navigation system is extremely easy and can be filtered by muscle group, difficulty, or time limits.


For those not into workout classes, Pacer is a pedometer that tracks your steps, weight, calories, and blood pres- sure. You can also create plans to help you reach your goals or join one of their pre-made plans. For instance, the app has a great “Weight loss plan” which allows you to put in a target weight and creates a plan to help you get there. You can also join groups who are working towards similar goals. Plus it syncs with MyFitness Pal so track- ing your calories just became a lot easier.

In conclusion, for those wishing to practice more of what they preach, there are several free apps to get you jump-started. Although there are multiple apps with many of the same functions and purposes, any free app should appeal immediately to students! It doesn’t hurt to try them out. If they work for you, they might just work for your patients too.

Biomedical Research: A Service or a Commodity?

Carla Gibbs, MSI

Biomedical Research contributes to a large portion of the United States health care services in the form of medical products, pharmaceuticals and other innovations[1]. The United States gross domestic profit largely favors the health care industry in the United States by 17.1% in 2013[2]. In other words, the economic value placed on goods and services in the health care sector in the United States is of extreme importance and it doesn’t take long to figure out why.

If we look to our current and past milestones, the United States has made innumerate advances in the field of biomedical research in efforts to prolong lives and alleviate suffering from diseases[3]. Including contributions from African Americans right here at Meharry Medical College, from Dr. James Hildreth and his research team developing potential creams to block HIV infection to an unsung hero of the North Nashville community, Dr. Matthew Walker Sr, one of the first African American surgeons to become a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

However, in some cases, research has been used as a vehicle for poor decisions including the devastating yet economic boosting institution of slavery in our country.

According to the book, Breathing Race into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics[4], by Lundy Braun, we can learn about the questionable history of the device used to measure lung capacity and gain insight on how its results falsely concluded that African Americans had lower lung capacity.  Subsequently, she reveals that researchers used that data as justification for the continuation of slavery on some southern plantations. Braun’s book states that” at the end of the Civil War, a large study of racial difference employing the spirometer appeared to confirm the finding, which was then applied to argue that slaves were unfit for freedom”.  Sadly, this is only one example of many, which show the impact that research can have on society.

According to one National Academy of Science Report featuring Insuring America’s Health: Principles and Recommendations, “Although America leads the world in spending on health care, it is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage”,[5].  The report, which provides numerous supports from research, focused on the lack of health care coverage in the U.S. and also provided noteworthy resolutions, goes on to state “providing coverage to everyone would almost certainly be greater than the additional cost of providing health care”.

Naturally, these issues of “costs versus care” are at the forefront of the impending political elections of all candidates, with resolutions spanning from repealing the affordable care act, increasing funding to NIH, to the ever-popular lowering costs of insurance coverage’s[6].

While spending continues to increase, may we pause for a moment to consider, what role does the budding biomedical researcher have in influencing this labyrinth of what we know as the American health care sector?

Well according to the NIH, whose current slogan is, “Turning Discovery Into Health,” there are a myriad of research topics that researchers can apply to have grant funding. And regardless of which researcher one converses with, there is no doubt a consensus that competition exists when applying for and obtaining funding. However, how can one decide where to begin in the process of developing an ethical project to meet the needs of our society? Well I first suggest determining a moral imperative by answering: Is biomedical research a service or a commodity?  By Merriam-Webster definition, a commodity is an economic good.  By contrast, a service is a contribution to the welfare of others.  With this in mind, I believe, we can bypass ever questioning if our work will benefit others.

In reality, we have more power to enact changes in society than we know, and it starts with that very first hypothesis we make.

I want to remind everyone that researchers are heavily governed and unable to make choices and decisions that may further their goals. As a result, if we are not utilizing the leaders in and around us by voicing our concerns, as the experts in scientific knowledge, then social norms of the past will continue to persist.

At Meharry Medical College our mission clearly states, we exist to improve the health and health care of minority and underserved communities. I urge our community to be reminded of this mission as we set out to accomplish our own personal goals within the realm of biomedical research.

[1] Nabel, Elizabeth G. 2009. “Linking biomedical research to health care.” Journal of Clinical Investigation. 119 (Oct) : 2858.

[2] Health expenditure, total (% of GDP). The World Bank (World Health Organization Global Health Expenditure)  Web. 1 Nov 2015.

[3] A Short History of the National Institutes of Health Web. Nov 1 2015.


Braun, Lundy. Breathing Race Into the Machine: The Surprising Career of the Spirometer from Plantation to Genetics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2014.

[5]Insuring America’s Health: Principles and Recommendations”. National Academy of Sciences. 13 Jan 2004.

[6] Every Political Leader On Every Issue.  Web. 1 Nov 2015.

By print or online, we are medical storytellers.