Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Buoyed by my success in accomplishing most of my resolutions for 2018, I’ve resolved to achieve feats just as ambitious in 2019.
As I discussed in my reflections on my 2018 resolutions, New Year’s resolutions provide a broad, 10,000-foot overview for how I hope to structure the calendar year. Each aim is connect to one or more of my life goals, which provide my existence meaning and purpose.
- Become fluent in conversation Spanish
- Become fluent in Python
- Serve 10 hours per week
- Win ten games of chess
- Qualify for the Boston Marathon
- Learn how to swim
- Read 50 books
- Ride a bike or take public transportation
Resolutions for 2019:
1. Become fluent in conversational Spanish
Ensuring the equitable provision of health care in the United States necessitates that providers be culturally competent and work to understand the context in which they treat their patients.
Language is a significant mediator of culture and the subjective experience of reality, conditioning our patterns of thoughts and behavior (Kramsch, 2004). Within health care, patients are often observed to prefer providers with whom they share a common language or culture (Pearson et al., 2008).
This preference may bolster health outcomes, as there is a higher level of comprehension between patients and providers, and patients may experience more agency over their health. Conversely, barriers to care might also be erected, as not all providers fulfill these preferences or possess a sufficient degree of cultural competence.
Hispanic and Spanish-speaking populations in the United States face disproportionate economic and health disparities. The poverty rate among Hispanics is 57 percent higher than the national average; the rate of obesity, meanwhile, is 18 percent above the national prevalence, with 47 percent of Hispanic adults affected.
In hopes of contributing towards health equity and more effectively serving a diverse range of patients as a medical student and later, as a physician, I resolve to attain a high level of fluency in Spanish in 2019.
At the time of writing, I have accumulated about five years of classroom study (four throughout high school and an additional year as an undergrad).
Despite these years of study, including a short stint in Peru, I never achieved a functional level of fluency.
In the coming months, I aim to utilize a range of free and low-cost resources to improve my written and verbal Spanish. I plan to publish another blog post later this year in which I detail those resources.
2. Become fluent in Python
Though acquiring fluency in Spanish might have a larger impact on mitigating health disparities, my aspirations to improve the delivery and quality of primary care to underserved populations can also be realized through proficiency in a computer programming language.
Among the raft of languages offered, Python is among the most versatile and most straight-forward to learn.
I aim to eventually apply Python to applications in research, data science, and web development as well as use my knowledge to learn other programming languages, such as R and Java.
About two weeks ago, I began taking a free MOOC (massive open-online course) on Coursera from my alma mater, Wesleyan University, entitled Python Programming: A Concise Introduction.
The course runs for another two weeks and already, I’ve learned the basic syntactical structure of Python as well as an array of functions, methods, and operations.
I’m hoping to expand on this foundational knowledge of Python by taking other MOOCs and potentially some computer science classes at the institution where I matriculate next fall.
3. Serve 10 hours per week
Starting in late July, I began serving as an AmeriCorps City Year Detroit service member. I currently support third and fourth graders in math instruction and social-emotional development for about 50 hours every week.
Although my term of service with City Year concludes in mid-June, I aim to continue my work with low-resource communities as a medical student and serve about ten hours a week.
I have yet to determine which medical school I will attend in the fall. I am particularly fortunate to have a number of options from which to choose. Each institution operates student-run free clinics and offers a number of service opportunities. With hope, I’ll be able to utilize my Spanish with the populations I serve, achieving two resolutions in one go.
4. Win ten games of chess against opponents who are about as equally skilled as I am
As a child, I was enthralled by Wizard Chess in spite of Hermione’s utterly baseless claim that it was “barbaric.”
In the seventeen years since I first saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I’ve learned little about chess besides the movement of individual pieces and the objective of the game. (Yes, I know that pieces cannot physically attack each other, thankyouverymuch.)
Recently, I learned about the genius of Magnus Carlsen, arguably the best chess player in history. In the video linked above, he plays–and wins–ten games of chess simultaneously while facing away from each board.
My resolution, far less exhilarating, mind you, is to merely win ten games of chess throughout the year whilst keeping my eyes wide open.
Suffice it to say, I am a complete neophyte with respect to chess strategy, meaning my work will certainly be cut out for me.
5. Qualify for the Boston Marathon
My 2018 season was cut short around October 20th following a persistent injury of my right ankle. I’m thankful that this was the first serious injury I’ve encountered in my running career, but the experience was agonizing all the same.
Provided my ankle has undergone sufficient recovery, I will again work towards qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2019. I’m aiming to run the Providence Marathon in May as well as a marathon in October in Detroit or Maine, or the Philadelphia Marathon in November.
This resolution, however, is made immensely more difficult by the recent decrease in qualifying times for the Boston Marathon, made effective earlier this year.
Whereas I previously had to finish a marathon in 3:05:00 (an average pace of 7:03/mile) to qualify, the benchmark is now 3:00:00 flat, a 6:51/mile pace.
6. Learn how to swim
Similar to my current skill level in chess, I know the absolute basics of swimming and little else. I’d be comfortable treading water for a solid hour, but ask me to swim to the nearest island and I’m fodder for sharks.
In addition to my perennial aspirations of running the Boston Marathon, I’ve long wanted to race in a proper triathlon. Seems that running 26.2 miles simply isn’t grueling enough to satisfy my masochistic predilections.
I’ve yet craft to a concrete plan for how I plan become a better swimmer, besides taking lessons and practicing on weekly basis. I expect a piece on this blog will detail my plan of attack once it is hatched.
7. Read 50 books
I exceeded all expectations in 2018 by reading 82 books, which I wrote about here.
In 2019, with my focus distributed among the other resolutions on this list as well as my first semester of medical school, I fear that I will have even less time to devote to reading.
Similar to last year, I plan to utilize every scrap of downtime in my schedule I receive for reading and, following Lemony Snicket’s advice, bring a book with me wherever I go.
8. Ride a bike or take public transportation as frequently as possible
By some estimates, I’ve helped save 3.2 million gallons of water, 116,000 pounds of grain, 88,000 square feet of rainforest, nearly 60,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, and almost 3,000 animal lives in that time.
At the same time, I drove some 40,000 miles in 2018 alone, which added about 25,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. At this rate, I will all but negate the positive impact of my veganism on the environment within a few years.
In hopes of augmenting my contributions to mitigating climate change, I endeavor to drive as little as possible in 2018, utilizing carpools and public transportation as well as riding a bike whenever it is feasible.
With hope, by this time next year I will have ran, biked, and swam 1,000 miles as part of a community service project while simultaneously reading and playing chess in Spanish using a program written in Python.
I look forward to sharing my success and best practices in the coming year!