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Editor's Commentary on 'Traversing the Gap'

 , August 22, 2014

As first year medical students, many of us recited some version of the Hippocratic Oath at our white coat ceremonies: we pledged to uphold the standards of the medical profession and to care for our patients to the best of our abilities. Describing our intentions to put the needs of our patients above our own in such an oath and actually understanding what it means to do this are two entirely different things, however. Paras Minhas details his own such transformation in his piece “Traversing the Gap.” Minhas, initially a reluctant student questioning why he has to spend his Sunday at the Pacific Free Clinic, begins to understand the purpose of his work there over the course of his first patient encounter. He learns that his service at the free clinic is not simply “another obstacle to receiving those two letters” after his name, but an important way of connecting with his community and providing access to care to the underserved. He comes to appreciate the value of understanding where a patient is coming from – a patient’s personal story, as well as the characteristics of the community in which the patient lives and works – in being able to deliver truly patient-centered care. And later, as a student manager of the free clinic, Minhas is able to reflect on the positive impact that he and his peers have had on their East Palo Alto community, even within such a short time. Each of those lessons, I think, is well worth giving up a Sunday for.

Rachel Elkin