Transformational Times

Words of Hope, Character & Resilience from our Virtual Community

Friday, April 21, 2023

In This Issue:

Associate Director's Corner

Cassie Ferguson, MD: And she cried


Poetry Corner

  • IF, Michael Esson

Call For Submissions!

Transformational Times will have parent issues this year, around Mothers Day and Fathers Day. We are looking for a variety of submissions ranging from untraditional families, advice, what you wish you knew, or anything else folks might like to share around parenting. If you are interested, please reach out to the email below.

Reach Out
  • With warm weather and spring buds coming in, we want to know what your favorite spring activity is!
Let Us Know!

Answers from last week: What is your favorite spring flower?



-Lily of the Valley

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Associate Director's Corner

And she cried

Cassie C. Ferguson, MD

In this Associate Director’s Corner, Dr. Ferguson explores the concept of embodiment

Anytime I cry now, I pay close attention. Since beginning Lexapro in May of 2020—a time in my life when anxiety had hijacked my brain, my sleep, my sense that there was a ground below my feet—I haven’t cried. And for someone whose tears have always come quickly and easily (even if in private) this side effect feels odd, although it has made more time in the day.

Life, it seems, is packed full of tragedies and bittersweet moments worthy of tears, and as a pediatric emergency medicine physician and teacher and mother of three, I spend many hours of the week feeling fear, loss, injustice, or despair. Perhaps crying wasn’t the most productive way to deal with life’s never-ending realities, (author Rachel Aviv writes in “Strangers to Ourselves” that her friend refers to Lexapro as “Make the Ambitious Ladies More Tolerable Pills”) but I have missed the release of it.

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Our ancestors’ wildest dreams: From slave & immigrant families to Ivy League residents

By British Fields, MLS(ASCP), BMS, BS,

and Adriana Perez, MSBS, BS

Our journey at MCW as two first-generation, underrepresented in medicine (URiM) students navigating a system that once didn’t accept people that looked like us to creating a space of advocacy for patients and future generations of Black and Brown medical students...


“No, I’m not the interpreter. No, I’m not the cleaning staff. I’m a student doctor.” These phrases became all too familiar to us as we embarked on the journey to becoming physicians. We had gone from being praised for being the first doctors in our families, to countless encounters with patients and medical staff assuming we weren't the student doctor because of the color of our skin. 

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Match Day: Happily, ever after?

Not always

By Dan Bor

Sometimes knowing where you matched before everyone else is not as blissful as you had envisioned …

I went into Match Day on March 17th, 2023, knowing exactly what was written in my envelope. I did not apply to only one program or hack the NRMP. While most medical students would be envious of knowing their match ahead of time, I don’t think they would envy me. I was couples matching, and sadly, my partner was notified earlier in the week that she did not match. When this happens, the NRMP allows the matched partner to see the city of their program. At the very least, this can help to find a program that is geographically close to the matched partner. Since the city I matched in had only one program, I knew exactly where I was going. 

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Fellowship: Mindfulness, coping, and lymph node dissections

By Lindsey A. McAlarnen, MD, M.Sc.

The first fellow in a new program at MCW reflects on her three-year journey, including learning to pause for mindfulness as a busy physician and surgeon...

A few weeks ago, my co-fellow and I joked about how different fellowship was from residency.

Catching two clinical fellows sitting in our shared academic office is a rare event. Our office is more of a glimpse into the day a co-fellow is having than a gathering space. Lukewarm, once-iced coffee sitting on a desk, a cold breakfast sandwich with one bite taken, or empty research tubes set on the keyboard as a tangible to-do message from the clinical research team, are unwritten memos of leaving in a rush to “take care” of a clinical event or dashing to the OR.

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The Brothers Karamazov and meaning in medical school 

By Justin Chu, MA


The following piece is the second in a series about “Why Meaning Matters?” The purpose of this thread is to contemplate the impact of meaning on human experience through individual examples of “Lived Meaning” with direct implications for flourishing and the ends of medicine. 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is a literary classic: a murder mystery, love story, and philosophical treatise gathered into one. Dostoyevsky addresses many issues relating to morality, religion in society, and personal culpability. Amid the interweaving of deep questions and penetrating narrative, Dostoyevsky, through the famous Grand Inquisitor, declares, “The secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for” (p.247). 

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By: Michael Esson

If I had time,

I would call my grandmother and make her smile,

She would invite me to a feast under the moonlight,

With my belly full, I would laugh with friends as we drank wine,

We would tell silly stories throughout the night,

Whether lightning or thunder strikes, we would find solace under the starry skies.

If I had time,

I would visit my sister and to my niece and nephew, I would say “hi”,

We would play to our heart’s content, and I would comfort them as they cried,

Filled with joy, I would call my mother and ask about her ailing heart,

She would confess, and I would listen from the start,

I would tell her I’m falling apart, and she would comfort me- like she always has,

I would say to her, “I love you”, as I’ve forgotten when I uttered these words last.

If I had time,

I would journey across the sea to a place I once called home,

My people would rejoice and never let me go,

We would walk hand in hand on the beach: friend or foe,

We would gather along the fire: toe to toe,

Joy rings true as we tell tales I would forever behold,

 The stars would be our only guide home.

I have time,

I called my grandmother, she is no longer living- I was told,

All my friends are out enjoying, and I’m home- studying alone,

I visited my niece and nephew, but they are all grown, and

It seems like my face, they no longer know,

I called my mother, but her ailment has returned; she’s no longer home,

So many words left unsaid, so many stories left untold,

I got on a boat and set sail home,

But everyone has forgotten me, and the beach is ice cold,

Only if.

Michael Kofi Esson is a Ghanaian born artist, brother, uncle, friend, soccer player, student, and the apple of his mother's eyes. His hope is to share a secret with you in his search for peace and freedom. He hopes to bring this to you as well.

The phrase I hear most often among medical students is " I'm so busy...". One of them even told me they planned to check on my wellbeing, but they were "so busy". This poem is a reflection of the things that could be, and the things that are. 

Submit a Poem for Next Week

KICS Medical Education Journal Club

May 10, 2023

12:15 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CDT


All students, trainees, faculty and staff are invited to join!

Register to join us at our monthly Kern Institute Collaboration for Scholarship Medical Education Journal Club! Each month, we discuss recent medical education scholarship with its author for a lively, intimate conversation about the transformation of medical education. This month MCW’s own Dr. Cassie Ferguson will be discussing the REACH curriculum and how she went about getting the curriculum published in Academic Medicine.

Register Here

Leveraging Your Strengths, Talents, and Lived Experiences to Promote Excellence across the Medical Education Continuum

Monday, May 22, 2023

10:00am - 10:50pm


Kristina Kaljo, PhD, Associate Professor, Faculty Pillar Director, Kern Institute; Co-Director, SPARCC Program

In recent years, we have observed a shift away from the traditional understanding of "excellence", i.e. perfect grades, high test scores, or number of publications. Join this panel discussion as we explore the evolution of excellence in medical education and collaboratively identify strategies to better recognize excellence among our colleagues, learners and ourselves.

Register Here

Understanding Medical Professional Identity and

Character Development

April 28, 2023

8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. CDT


Professional identity formation (PIF), as defined by the Carnegie Foundation, is the “ongoing self-reflective process involving habits of thinking, feeling, and acting” as a physician. The holistic development of these capacities of PIF can be interpreted as essential qualities of one's character and integrity.


Education in the professions must design learning environments that center self-reflection within the PIF curriculum and provide growth opportunities that challenge while offering support and guidance for PIF growth, as well as the learner's well-being. In this symposium, we aim to convene medical education researchers, instructors, and others to engage on the state of PIF research, the goals, and interests of attendees, going beyond the confines of reductionist approaches. Our overarching goal is to transcend to holistic and humanistic integration spaces, weaving a central thread that is crucial to the person’s professional self.

Keynote Presentation

Can You Imagine How Far They've Come?:

PIF As Immigration

Presented by

Lara Varpio, PhD 

Visit our website for more information about the program, including agenda, topics, and presenters.  

Register Here
The Transformational Times publishes weekly, delivering stories of hope, character and resilience to our virtual community.

Jeff Fritz, PhDEditor-in-Chief

Editorial Board: Bruce Campbell, MDKathlyn Fletcher, MD, Adina Kalet, MD, Wendy Peltier, MD, Karen Herzog, Justine Espisito, Nabil Attlassy, Julia Bosco, Ana Istrate, Linda Nwumeh, Wolf Pulsiano, Eileen PetersonAnna Visser, Sophie Voss, James Wu & Emelyn Zaworski

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