Sunday, February 24, 2019

Alix. Alix. Alix.


When she was a first-year medical student, I ran into her in the lobby of the medical school. She knew my name before I knew hers. Which isn't an unusual thing for those junior to you in a place where you're both underrepresented minorities. "Hi Dr. Manning!" she said as I passed. Her eyes were dancing with admiration and deference. I was busy, but still. I wanted to try to show her the same.

I stopped. I smiled. I asked her name, too.

"Alix," she said.
"Nice to meet you, Alix," I replied. Then I said:

"Alix. Alix. Alix."

That's what I do when I meet someone and want to be sure to seal a name into my brain. And that is exactly what happened. After that, whenever I saw her moving between classes with an oversized bookbag or chatting with her comrades, I made sure to call her by her name.

"Alix. Alix. Alix."


Ultimately, that created a space for us to talk more. I gave her my number and told her to reach out anytime. Because I care about our students, yes. But especially because I know exactly what it feels like to be a black female navigating a large majority medical institution.


One day during Thanksgiving break of her first year, she sent me a text asking if she could join me on rounds. I replied that she could and offered some future dates. "I was hoping to join you this week," Alix said. It was Thanksgiving week. And she was on break. But once I asked if she was sure, she confirmed that this was exactly how she wanted to spend the Saturday after turkey day. And so she did.



That was in 2015. Fast forward to this month and now she is a senior medical student rotating on my team. She's a few weeks away from matching into a residency. Her stride is more confident. Her comfort level navigating around Grady so much different than the nervous freshman student who stuck close to my side back in November of 2015. I looked at her on rounds yesterday and felt a pang in my chest.


"This is a full circle moment," I told her yesterday after rounds.
"Yes, it is. I feel so lucky."
"Do you remember that day you came to round with me?"
"The Saturday after Thanksgiving. I will never forget."

After that, I didn't say much. I just sat there staring at her with the same admiration and deference that she'd offered to me in the hallway nearly four years ago.

"Damn, I'm so proud of you."
"I know."
"You do?"
"Yes. I do."

We both sat there smiling for a few beats. Then I spoke again.

"Pay it forward, okay?"
"I will."
"You know what? I already knew that."

And I said that because it was true.

Alix. Alix. Alix.
I'm so glad I took the time to learn your name.

I love this job. So much, man.



I took those photos that day right after she'd finished rounding with me back in November 2015. Because I knew I'd want to go back and savor that moment someday. You know what? I was right.

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