Giving health a voice

OHSU StudentSpeak is pleased to share this post, reprinted with permission from Carla’s blog, Healthvoicepdx.

My name is Carla. When I was 5 years old, I remember going out to dinner with my parents in San Francisco. I had lead a pretty sheltered life up until that point and things like homelessness, poverty, and hunger weren’t really on my radar. As my family and I left the restaurant, I saw a man, disheveled, eyes cast down, sitting in a dirty San Francisco alcove. He wasn’t asking for food or money; he was simply watching the world pass him by. I’m not sure what made me think of giving him my food, but I looked up at my mom and shyly asked if I could. You see, to my 5 year old eyes, he looked hungry and tired. While I couldn’t do much about the tired part, I could offer him a meal. I don’t want to sound presumptuous or like someone’s savior or even like a person with some sort of omnipotent complex, I simply had a gut feeling and decided to act on it. What happened next has stuck with me over the last 27 years.

I quietly offered him a box of food and he looked up at me and said, “Thank you missus.” It was the first time any adult had ever thanked me earnestly and with genuinely. Sure my family thanked me for things, but they thanked me as a 5 year old little girl. This gentlemen saw me as a person, not just a 5 year old. In that moment, I recognized the importance of truly seeing others, and I’ve never forgotten that man.

More than two decades later, I am entering the healthcare field. More than anything, I hope to retain my ability to actually see a person and thus my project is born. My plan is to photograph people and find out their opinions about healthcare. I’ve worked with an amazing photographer, Brian Fischer, and we have collected some beautiful stories thus far. I’d like to invite you to share in this journey to see healthcare through Portland’s eyes. All stories are unedited and rewritten with the permission of the people pictured.

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