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Compassion, Poetry, and DACA

By Joy Jacobson

September 6, 2017

Rio Grande/Rio Bravo, J. Stephen Conn, flickr

“There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws,” attorney general Jeff Sessions said yesterday, in a surreal usurpation of the word compassion. In announcing the end of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, he made 800,000 young adults brought to this country illegally as children vulnerable for deportation as soon as March of next year.


Compassion literally means “to suffer with.” But like me you may be blocked from this suffering by a bout of compassion fatigue, brought on from the relentless assault of terrible news. Others have called it outrage fatigue or resistance fatigue. But because Sessions bastardized compassion, I think it’s important to reclaim that concept.


To suffer with: I am not vulnerable for deportation, yet I want to cultivate the ability to understand what this policy change means for people who are. I’m also overwhelmed; I’m afraid of the responsibility I bear in our culture; I want to hide from it.


And so I turn to poetry.


Sherman Alexie’s new poem, “Hymn,” is an incantatory series of rhyming couplets through which we can, along with the poet, declaim: “I will sing for people who might not sing for me. / I will sing for people who are not my family.”


Claudia D. Hernandez crossed the Rio Grande/ Rio Bravo with her family when she was 10 years old. “The River Never Happened to Us (ii.)” ends with this startling image: “Yet   we   continued   to trickle / shards   of   mud,   as   if   the river   had never happen to us.” Hernandez’s poem is part of an online collection featuring nine undocumented poets, curated by Christopher Soto and published by Southern Humanities Review.


Li-Young Lee describes his writing of his poem “Immigrant Blues,” which begins with a line his father told him as a boy: “People have been trying to kill me since I was born…” Click the audio link to hear him read the poem, and then listen again.


Eduardo C. Corral provides the poetic perspective of a child of an undocumented immigrant. “In Colorado My Father Scoured and Stacked Dishespresents a series of heartbreaking images, told in a heartbroken voice: “Once, borracho, at breakfast, / he said: The heart can only be broken // once, like a window.”


Guatemala-born poet Alex Alpharaoh performed “WET: A DACAmented Journey” in Los Angeles in August. “Soon the witch-hunt will begin,” he chants. “Which one of you brought the matches?” In an interview posted yesterday, he said of people who deny the importance of immigrants to America’s culture: “They’re not paying attention, and they’re not really looking at their history.”


Let’s pay attention. Let’s look at our history. Tell me what you’re reading.

Joy Jacobson
Joy Jacobson is the CHMP’s poet-in-residence and cofounder of our Writing Reflective Narratives for Clinicians program.

Trump cuts budget to inform people of ACA open enrollment by 90%. Social media responds #SaveACA

By Barbara Glickstein

September 3, 2017

Andy Slavitt, former President Obama’s former head of Medicare and Medicaid, used Twitter to respond to President Trump’s actions to cut 90% of the ObamaCare enrollment outreach program. The funding will be cut from $100 million last year to $10 million this year impacting the ad and in person assistance program.

Slavitt’s first Tweet re the cuts said, “this does not save taxpayers one penny. This is generally money paid out of user fees from insurers being cut.

Pure undermining.”

Later that morning he sent this Tweet:



The response by his followers was swift. Today, he posted this Tweet:



This campaign is growing  as others take to social media to get the word out. Can the public’s social media response fill the void this dramatic cut to the ObamaCare enrollment and reach those in need? Stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted.








Barbara Glickstein
Barbara is a founder of the Center for Health, Media & Policy, as well as a nurse, media guru & activist in New York City. She is the chairman of the board of Project Kesher and a consultant to many health care organizations and creative projects. Barbara tweets and 'grams @blickstein.

Living Life Before, During and After Breast Cancer

By Kenya V Beard

August 24, 2017

Image from the NIEH

“You have breast cancer” are four words that no one ever wants to hear. However, more than three million people have heard these words before and in 2017, at least a ¼ million more will hear it. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer occurs in approximately one in eight women and is the most common invasive cancer. Following lung cancer, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The risk of death increases when the tumor spreads beyond the walls of the breast. African Americans tend to have a higher breast cancer mortality rate, even though white women over the age of 50 have a higher incidence. There is a multitude of factors that contribute to breast cancer disparities. However, breast cancer is no longer inextricably linked to death. Many women survive.

Jamie Philippe believed her breast cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. On Living Beyond Breast Cancer, she revealed how the disease disrupted her life and left her jobless, homeless, and without a car. Although the disease didn’t kill her, it shattered her livelihood. Jamie returned to work three years post diagnosis, a double mastectomy, and financial hardship. Now she is counted among breast cancer survivors. Novel ways to eradicate and treat breast tumors have emerged. However, more must be done to assist women with managing the sequelae of this horrific disease.

The fear of breast cancer is a reality for many women (it can also occur in men). Women should understand what they can do to decrease their risk for breast cancer and who should be screened. What’s more, women should know their options.

I reached out to Dr. Ted James, the Chief of Breast Surgical Oncology and Co-Director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Breast Care Center and asked him about plausible ways to decrease the risk for breast cancer. Dr. James discussed modifiable risk factors and why screening guidelines are not so simple. He also discussed the role of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in improving breast cancer outcomes and his concerns about the ACA appeal. The ACA has benefited many women by providing genetic counseling, free preventive counseling, mammograms, removing coverage limits and ensuring that breast cancer survivors are covered for pre-existing conditions. Dr. James described what is being done to help women manage the disease and improve outcomes. His center employs nurse navigators who help women work through the complex treatment decisions and challenges that often accompany a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Breast cancer statistics can be changed. Click the link below to listen to the interview with Dr. Ted James hear his response to what women should know about breast cancer. Know your risk, what you can do to decrease your risk, when and how you should be screened, what to expect from your provider, and what is currently being done to eradicate breast cancer.

Share your story and tell us what you believe everyone should know about breast cancer.


Kenya V Beard