Why communication matters now more than ever | May 2020

Dear Friends,


As we continue to navigate life during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am constantly reminded of the importance of clear, compassionate, and empathetic communication. Communication in healthcare is multifaceted. It involves talking and listening. Sometimes, listening with empathy to elicit understanding and challenge our own assumptions is underappreciated. As a physician-scientist, I study the factors that contribute to differences in health and wellbeing among various segments of the U.S. population. I have worked to understand the role of medical care in addressing social conditions that produce or exacerbate disease.  I remind the medical students and residents I teach that a patient’s social circumstances do not absolve physicians from our personal responsibility to listen to each patient we are privileged to care for, seek to understand their experiences and perspectives, and hold ourselves accountable to reject assumptions or stereotypes in pursuit of understanding, empathy, and compassion.

Yet, the health and economic consequences of COVID-19 divide us while also revealing that the vulnerability and suffering resulting from this pandemic means that some will suffer disproportionately. It is important to give voice to this suffering, to embrace our shared humanity, to find empathy for the plight of others. Through compassionate and empathetic discourse, perhaps we can make progress in ensuring that out of this time of stress, hardship, fear, and suffering comes compassion, connection, empathy, and transformation. Showing appreciation for the personal sacrifice, bravery, and commitment that essential workers embody when they go to work uncertain of the risks they will face of exposure to COVID-19 is intuitive and critically important.

We also have to hold in our hearts the reality that people are both courageous and flawed at the same time. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some truths into bold relief. These are not new insights. They have been visible all along. But we see them with fresh eyes in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of giving in to prejudices or moving back into our “corners”, my greatest hope is that this crisis requires us to see and value people who too often go unseen, overlooked, or unheard. It would be a gift to all of us if the time at home and quiet moments in our lives that come with “staying at home” allow us to listen and reflect, if even for a moment, on the experience of someone we have not seen or thought about before.

As a physician, I have a moral and professional obligation to first do no harm. But all of us have the power to seek to understand the people we encounter for who they are, for their nobility and fragility and imperfections, for what they know about their experiences and their bodies…lest we overlook their suffering.

Rachel J. Thornton, MD, PhD

VIDEO: COVID-19: A Child’s Perspective

How I’m Adapting

Millions Intern Anas Saba


Please listen as Millions intern Anas Saba explains how COVID-19 has impacted his life and how his optimism drives him forward. Anas offers us insight into his own story – from his childhood growing up in Tennessee and Yemen to the experiences that led him to establish his own small business offering food tours of immigrant-run restaurants in Nashville to locals and visitors. Like many of us, he has adapted to this new reality and he offers a positive vision for the future. Share this video with your friends, what is your COVID-19 story?

On Our List

“Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting”

“From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life.” – Julio Vincent Gambuto

We found this article particularly noteworthy. As everything around us changes, let’s take stock of what we want to keep. 

What Does a Muslim Look Like?

We wanted to share a book from Millions Ambassador Mohamed Abdel-Kader that touched our hearts.

We encourage you to order Mohamed’s book and read it with your families. Have a conversation about what diversity looks like in America today. Stay tuned for a possible live reading with the author himself!

What Our Partners Are Up To

Our friends at Mint + Laurel have announced their newest Ramadan initiative. For every one of their beautiful products you purchase, they will donate a hygiene kit to people experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles area. Ramadan Mubarak! read more >>

Our partners at the Muslim Community Network have been actively working to assist in COVID-19 response efforts in New York City. They have proposed a few steps that we can all take from home:
1. Take the 2020 Census
2. Report hate crimes
3.  Take care of yourselves and your community
4. Volunteer for a COVID-19 hotline

Our friends at Telos are launching a new initiative! #TelosTrees connects us to what matters. To life, to nature, to our hopes and dreams, and to each other. Please commit to nurturing new life by planting a tree or flowers. Share hope for a new world by sharing your stories and pictures with us. Sponsor the planting of a tree at Tent of Nations. And spread a little joy, too. Click on the photo to see.  read more >>

Did you know?

Responses to the 2020 Census will inform funding for clinics, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as other health care assistance programs. When you are included in the census, any changes to these Federal health programs will be more likely to include you. 

Do your part and fill out the 2020 Census today. If you have any questions or want to know more about how the Census affects your community, we are here to help. 

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