“Relative deprivation” is a term coined by Samuel Stouffer. According to Malcolm Gladwell, “Stouffers point is that we form our impressions not globally, by placing ourselves in the broadest possible context, but locally—by comparing ourselves to people “in the same boat as ourselves.” Our sense of how deprived we are is relative.”
The city of Loma Linda is one of the more affluent cities in the Inland Empire in CA , it is notorious for the healthy habits and good health of its residents. If you walk across the 10 freeway from Loma Linda into the city of San Bernardino you enter one of the poorest cities in CA and severely affected by health disparities. Last night I sat outdoors at a friend’s parents' hill top residence watching shows on an overhead projector overlooking a beautiful night view of the cities of Loma Linda and San Bernardino. Why not engage in this pleasant experience since “we can” was the inside joke of the night. Today, I found myself at the Al Shifa clinic in the city of San Bernardino. It is a free clinic where physicians volunteer their time in an attempt to meet the health care needs of the underserved population in the area. As a medical student you obtain an incredible amount of hands on experience, because there is so much need.
As I finished my clinical experience for the day I sat in awe at the sharp contrast between the two neighboring cities. Growing up my experiences paralleled that of the people of the city of San Bernardino yet I am blessed with the opportunity of an educational experience like those at the top of the hill. How lucky am I! How lucky are we! How lucky are we as medical students to have the opportunity to engage in a medical education and some day use the knowledge we gain to bring healing to all parts of the globe: the top and bottom of the hill. Stouffers idea of relative deprivation came to mind. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to those in our present situation or those who are doing better than us. This makes it easy to dismiss the needs of those people upon whom life has not smiled too kindly. It is therefore my hope that all medical students be aware of the blessing that it is to be in our position. So that one day when we student doctors get to “the top of the hill” we will not turn a blind eye to the needs of those stuck in the valleys, but that we will try to meet the health care needs of underserved populations with a compassionate heart simply because “we can”.