Agora is a forum where diverse student voices come together in creative expression.



Consider the great wide world we live in: somewhere across the landscapes, a mother sings to her baby in Cantonese, a businessman in Berlin is closing a deal in German, a sign language interpreter is moving her hands to the swift beat of a rap song. No matter who you are or where you are, you are connected to everyone else by one thing: language. 

Despite its many forms, language holds tremendous power across all human societies. This power is dualistic: it promises progress and unity on the one hand, but threatens us with degradation and division on the other. In our current political climate, the use of hyperbole and deflection, precluding deeper engagement in conversation, breeds an unwillingness to search for common ground and inevitably leads to misunderstanding. Alternatively, shared discourses can be healing, validating, and revolutionary. Take for example: #TakeAKnee, #BlackLivesMatter, #ImWithHer, and most recently, #MeToo. 

Like any culture or sub-culture, medicine comes with its own language. As we journey through medical school and prepare to care for our patients, we learn the lexicon of medicine. We become fluent in the intricate details of medical conditions, diagnoses, prognoses, and therapies. But as much as this language allows us to communicate and care for patients, it can also alienate us from those we are meant to serve. We are warned about the dangers of “jargon” from our earliest introduction into the medical field. We are taught that at the heart of good healthcare lies the ability to listen deeply, communicate across barriers, and interpret the stories we hear. Regardless of what we are taught, our most formative teachers on this matter are the patients we meet day after day, who humble us, challenge us, and remind us of our shared human connection. They, after all, are the reason many of us chose to pursue medicine in the first place. 

This issue of Agora, on the theme “Lost in Translation,” features pieces by authors and artists exploring the ways in which interpersonal connections emerging from (mis)communications define our professional and personal experiences. The pieces in this issue seek to illuminate both what is lost and what is gained in our attempts to understand and care for one another. 

In this issue, we do not seek to prescribe or define routes to diagnostic or therapeutic ends. We aim to reflect on communication—and the translation therein—as its own journey. By sharing their voices with us, these contributors guide us in our own reflections. We listen, such that we may recognize, and such that we may learn, both about the people around us and about ourselves. 

We hope you enjoy this issue of Agora

The Agora Editorial Board (Lizzie, Lizbeth, and Eli)

Selections from Fall 2018 Agora Issue

Selections from Fall 2017 Agora Issue

The Ripening
David A. WarshawT

Brain Imaging
Ginny Bao

Two Doors Down
Jenna Tauber


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