Hip-hop artist and motivational speaker David Rush kicked off the first day of medical school for Feinberg’s Class of 2021, discussing his experience with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a life-threatening kidney condition that eventually forced him onto dialysis.
Rush was interviewed onstage by Josh Hauser, MD, associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Hospital Medicine and of Medical Education, as part of Feinberg’s first-week curriculum, called Introduction to the Profession.
According to Rush, the first signs of trouble appeared when he was in 10th grade, during a school-mandated physical for football. High protein levels indicated poor kidney function and he was prescribed medication, which he took throughout high school. But when Rush moved to Georgia to attend the Art Institute of Atlanta, he left his self-care at home in New Jersey.
“I forgot about the medical side — living away from your parents and your doctors, you’re not really thinking about what your blood pressure is or what your creatinine levels are,” Rush said. “You’re thinking, ‘How much is Wendy’s again?’”
It wasn’t until Rush underwent a physical at the urging of a friend that he discovered just how poorly his kidneys were functioning. His doctors told him he needed to start dialysis or he could die within a year. Still, Rush delayed starting the treatment. After 10 months had elapsed without treatment, Rush was discovered passed out in his sister’s apartment.
He woke up in the emergency room, connected to a dialysis machine.
“It was scary, I didn’t want to be there,” Rush said. “But that’s how I started dialysis.”
These days, Rush spends three hours a day hooked up to a dialysis machine. While it can make him feel like he’s pressed for time, he said, it’s also given him insight into how much patients sacrifice to receive medical care.
“Patients’ time is taken — the time they spend at hospitals, the time they spend in doctors’ offices and the time they spend on treatment,” he said. “So when you’re seeing patients, you have to think about how they’re spending their time. When they finally see you it may be the seventh hour they’ve been spending on this. They might come in a little edgy, but we’re not mad at you, but we need you to understand us.”
First-year medical student Balaji Veluswamy said he appreciated hearing about Rush’s experience. “I haven’t heard that perspective before: the point of view of a patient who had time taken away from them. The patient is who you learn from the most. I find that fascinating.”
Introduction to the Profession week familiarizes students with the roles of medical student and physician, connecting them to the competencies that constitute the core of the Feinberg curriculum. These competencies include ethics, teamwork, communication, patient-centered care, quality improvement, and personal awareness and self-care.
The first week also serves as an opportunity for medical students to learn about the informal curriculum — the attitudes and values conveyed by Feinberg education practices and culture.
“I like to think of it as the things that happen before and after class, on your way to class, and when you’re talking to friends and colleagues,” Hauser said. “When I look back on my time as a medical student, those things are every bit as important as the more explicit goals.”