Seeing Between The Lines

“To eliminate disparities, we must know enough (research); do enough (deliver the outcomes); care enough (commitment); and persevere enough (don’t get discouraged).” 

-David Satcher, Director, Morehouse School of Medicine and Former Surgeon General

Last week I attended a lecture on Health Inequality. Dr. Brian K. Gibbs, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine challenged the audience to believe differently. Dr. Gibbs talked about what it means to “believe what you see” versus “see what you believe.”

It got me thinking about a research project I learned about years ago, about how experience shapes our perceptions and perceptions shape our experiences. Researchers created two environments for newborn kittens. One batch was raised in space composed entirely of horizontal lines, the other group was raised in space made up of only vertical lines. Eventually, the researchers exposed the kittens to a line that they had not experienced. Turns out, the horizontally raised cats didn’t see vertical lines and, likewise, the vertically raised cats didn’t see horizontal lines. The kittens were “blind” to what they had not experienced.

I happened to be sitting between Linda Vail, Director & Health Officer for Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services, and my CIS colleague, Donna Carroll, two women who have helped shape how I see the world, particularly when it comes to thinking about children’s health. The room, I noticed, was peppered with other women whom I admire, such as Alison Geist, Director of Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Institute for Service-Learning and Ineke Way, Associate Professor in the WMU School of Social Work. These women I have come to know through my work with CIS. Each, in their own way, works hard to make our world a better, more equitable place. They know, they do, and they care. This slice of the planet is a little more healthy because of them. I am a better person for knowing them.

Who or what helps you see the world? Both as it is and can be? Do you know what your blind spots are?