Breaking News
December 13, 2018 - NIH offers support for HIV care and prevention research in the southern United States
December 12, 2018 - Activating brain region could revive the urge to socialize among opioid addicts
December 12, 2018 - Relationship impairment appears to interfere with seeking mental health treatment in men
December 12, 2018 - Sleep, Don’t Cram, Before Finals for Better Grades
December 12, 2018 - Effective treatments for urticarial vasculitis
December 12, 2018 - Gun violence is a public health issue: One physician’s story
December 12, 2018 - The Science of Healthy Aging
December 12, 2018 - Yes to yoghurt and cheese: New improved Mediterranean diet
December 12, 2018 - Researchers uncover a number of previously unknown insecticide resistance mechanisms
December 12, 2018 - Regulating the immune system’s ‘regulator’
December 12, 2018 - In breaking bad news, the comfort of silence
December 12, 2018 - Study finds upward link between alcohol consumption and physical activity in college students
December 12, 2018 - FDA issues warning letter to Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical involved in valsartan recall
December 12, 2018 - Presence of antiphospholipid antibodies tied to first-time MI
December 12, 2018 - New study could help inform research on preventing falls
December 12, 2018 - Women and men with heart attack symptoms receive different care from EMS
December 12, 2018 - Disrupted biological clock can contribute to onset of diseases, USC study shows
December 12, 2018 - New publications generate controversy over the value of reducing salt consumption in populations
December 12, 2018 - New data from TAILORx trial confirms lack of chemo benefit regardless of race or ethnicity
December 12, 2018 - Specific class of biomarkers can accurately indicate the severity of cancer
December 12, 2018 - Meds Taken Do Not Vary With ADL Impairment in Heart Failure
December 12, 2018 - Long-term study shows that HIV-2 is deadlier than previously thought
December 12, 2018 - People living near oil and gas wells show early signs of cardiovascular disease
December 12, 2018 - IONTAS founder and pioneer in phage display technology attends Nobel Prize Award Ceremony
December 12, 2018 - People who eat red meat have high levels of chemical associated with heart disease, study finds
December 12, 2018 - New method uses water molecules to unlock neurons’ secrets
December 12, 2018 - Genetics study offers hope for new acne treatment
December 12, 2018 - New computer model predicts prostate cancer progression
December 12, 2018 - Nobel Laureates lecture about immune checkpoint therapy for cancer treatment
December 12, 2018 - More Illnesses From Tainted Romaine Lettuce Reported
December 12, 2018 - Aspirin could reduce HIV infections in women
December 12, 2018 - The EORTC Brain Tumor Group and Protagen AG collaborate to study immuno-competence of long-term glioblastoma survivors
December 12, 2018 - Insights into magnetotactic bacteria could guide development of biological nanorobots
December 12, 2018 - Sacrificial immune cells alert body to infection
December 12, 2018 - Low-salt diet may be more beneficial for females than males
December 12, 2018 - Major soil organic matter compound battles chronic wasting disease
December 12, 2018 - Findings may open up new ways to treat dwarfism and other ER-stress-related conditions
December 12, 2018 - New computational model provides clearer picture of shape-changing cells’ structure and mechanics
December 12, 2018 - 10 Facts on Patient Safety
December 12, 2018 - Poorest dying nearly 10 years younger than the rich in ‘deeply worrying’ trend for UK
December 12, 2018 - Innovative care model for children with ASD reduces use of behavioral drugs in ED
December 12, 2018 - Spending time in and around Hong Kong’s waters linked to better health and wellbeing
December 12, 2018 - Simple measures to prevent weight gain over Christmas
December 12, 2018 - Research advances offer hope for patient-tailored AML treatment
December 12, 2018 - Researchers discover a ‘blind spot’ in atomic force microscopy
December 12, 2018 - Sprayable gel could help prevent recurrences of cancer after surgery
December 12, 2018 - SLU researchers explore how fetal exposure to inflammation can alter immunity in newborns
December 12, 2018 - How do patients want to discuss symptoms with clinicians?
December 12, 2018 - Zinc chelation may be able to deliver drug to insulin-producing cells
December 12, 2018 - Brigham researchers develop automated, low-cost tool to predict a woman’s ovulation
December 12, 2018 - Some people with Type 2 diabetes may be testing their blood sugar more often than needed
December 12, 2018 - Slow-growing type of glioma may be vulnerable to immunotherapy, suggests study
December 12, 2018 - Study provides new information regarding microRNA function in cellular homeostasis of zebrafish
December 12, 2018 - Study provides new understanding of mysterious ‘hereditary swelling’
December 12, 2018 - Researchers shed new light on how to combat Shiga and ricin toxins
December 12, 2018 - Pregnant Women Commonly Refuse Vaccines
December 12, 2018 - Drug treatment could offer new hope for some patients with brain bleeding
December 12, 2018 - Health care financial burden of animal-related injuries is growing, study says
December 12, 2018 - Macrophage cells could help repair the heart following a heart attack, study finds
December 12, 2018 - Researchers develop new system for efficiently producing human norovirus
December 12, 2018 - New artificial intelligence-based system to differentiate between different types of cancer cells
December 11, 2018 - Brazilian professors propose guidelines for therapeutic use of melatonin
December 11, 2018 - Healthy Lifestyle Lowers Odds of Breast Cancer’s Return
December 11, 2018 - New research identifies two genes linked to serious congenital heart condition
December 11, 2018 - NIH Director talks science, STEM careers with preteens
December 11, 2018 - Disabling a Cellular Antivirus System Could Improve Gene Therapy
December 11, 2018 - New tool swiftly provides accurate measure of patients’ cognitive difficulties
December 11, 2018 - NICE releases new guidelines for diagnosis and management of COPD
December 11, 2018 - Without Obamacare penalty, think it’ll be nice to drop your plan? Better think twice
December 11, 2018 - Researchers capture high-resolution X-ray and NMR image of key immune regulator
December 11, 2018 - Natural flavonoid is effective at treating leishmanisis infections, study shows
December 11, 2018 - Avoidant grievers unconsciously monitor and block mind-wandering contents, study shows
December 11, 2018 - Study identifies how hantaviruses infect lung cells
December 11, 2018 - Improving PTSD care through genetics
December 11, 2018 - Dermatology providers show interest in recommending cannabinoids to patients
December 11, 2018 - Researchers to study effects of electroconvulsive therapy on Alzheimer’s patients with aggression
December 11, 2018 - Four dried fruits have lower glycemic index than starchy foods, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Optimization of drug dose sizes can reduce pharmaceutical wastage
December 11, 2018 - Ultrarestrictive opioid prescribing strategy linked with reduction in number of pills dispensed
December 11, 2018 - PET scans to optimize tuberculosis meningitis treatments and personalize care, study finds
Reflections on the California fires

Reflections on the California fires

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Last week, like so many California residents, I woke up to the smell of smoke. I scurried out of bed at 5:30 AM and checked the cooktop, the oven, and even opened my apartment’s front door. It wasn’t until I went to close a window, letting in a cold early-morning breeze, that I realized the source: Smoke was blowing through Palo Alto from 200 miles north.

The fire in Butte County, better known as the Camp Fire, has been burning in Northern California since the morning of November 8. Later that same day, the Hill and Woolsey Fires broke out in the southern part of the state. As of ten days into the Camp Fire, 77 people have been confirmed dead and nearly one thousand are missing.

I’m following the shifting numbers and reading updates from my family’s home in Maryland. For over a week before I left – and according to friends, still today – the air was visible as though a gray fog had descended and obscured the sun’s rays. An orange ball poked out of the blanket of smoke and, each day, it gradually rolled across the sky from morning till evening. When night fell, a dark curtain replaced the usually-vibrant California sunsets.

On Stanford’s campus, the smell of charred earth followed me and my classmates as we biked across the quads and sat in lecture halls. Some students wore masks covering half their faces, others took in gulps of polluted air and minimized their time outdoors. Second-year medical students remained focused on the week’s tasks. We did our shifts in the ER, went to class, and studied for exams. Before a test last Friday, one classmate, a California native remarked, “Smoke is a West Coast weather type, but this is something else.” My classmates with asthma incessantly coughed their way through the exam, and I thought of how weather can, at times, be more destructive than any disease.

Now on my Thanksgiving break, my first visit home in months, I’m feeling a mix of gratitude and guilt. I’m grateful to be breathing fresh autumn air and spending my favorite holiday with family and friends. But truth be told, I also feel like I abandoned my new community in a time of need. I wonder, if I had stayed, what would I have done to help? What kind of support can a second-year medical student offer on the ground? What about from 3,000 miles east?

I bring up the fires at Friendsgiving gatherings, attest to the poor air quality across dinner tables and at coffee shops. I tell my friends at home what’s going on and, from their responses, am reminded that the coasts of the country can feel worlds apart. I try, in the smallest way, to bring them a little closer.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope you can spend some time with the people you love and enjoy the holiday. But I also hope that you stay informed and, if possible, provide aid to those impacted by the fires. Please write to me if you have other ideas for ways to help – both from California, and from elsewhere. Here are just some of the organizations in need of assistance:

Happy Thanksgiving.

Stanford Medicine Unplugged is a forum for students to chronicle their experiences in medical school. The student-penned entries appear on Scope once a week during the academic year; the entire blog series can be found in the Stanford Medicine Unplugged category.

Orly Farber, a second-year medical student, is from Washington, D.C. She graduated from UChicago in 2015 and spent the following two years in an allergy lab at the National Institutes of Health. While Orly’s heart remains in Chicago, her body is thrilled to be in the Bay Area! She loves running, hiking, rock climbing, baking bread, and tending to her plants — fully embracing the West Coast lifestyle.

Photo by Julie Greicius

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles