pontes newsletter #4

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Hello lovely humans!

I hope this email finds you relaxed and breathing deeply. In the off-chance that it doesn’t (were I the reader, odds would not exactly be in my favor), I hope we can both take this oddly-pluralled-subject-phrase-given-asynchronicity as an opportunity to fill up our lungs with air to the brim. It feels wonderful every time, doesn’t it? And as per tradition (once is novelty, twice is habit-enforcing, thrice is ritual), please go for it & grab a glass of water-or-tea-or-beer to accompany your reading!

It’s been a while since we last cyber connected; it feels good to reach out to you again. I hope that you’ve been (at least) healthy. I’d love to hear from you. Some firestarters I’m throwing out there for your update/not-at-all-obligatory-response: what’s been keeping you up at night? what’s the last interaction you witnessed that reawakened your faith in humans? what pulls you out of bed in the mornings (aside from alarm clocks, paychecks, diaper rashes, etc)? What are you resisting?

Let’s jump right in, why don’t we? The last couple of months have been colored by cynicism and disenchantment and introspection and laughter due to a confluence of dumpster-fires: [1] The Thinking Experiment (program that I run @ Queensboro Correctional) was suspended, [2] Flatiron Health (my employer) was acquired by a swiss healthcare titan (Roche Group), [3] the New York City urgency-culture and “accomplishment”-driven value system are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

The short of [1] is that some books that I brought into the facility did not have proper gate clearance and were thus labeled contraband. Though nothing about the content of the books I brought in was deemed inappropriate, I have lost volunteering status and now have to reapply to reinstitute the program. This experience has left me slightly disillusioned: people who had previously voiced themselves as supporters of the program provided little to no support in my re-application for volunteer status. Despite the frustrations, I’m continuing to think about how I can help relieve (no matter how minimally) the injustices that surround us. Healthcare access and education continue to pique my interest: I am in the planning stages of launching an improv-comedy class at a community center near me in Bushwick. I’m also having conversations with folks who know of projects that are happening where they think my data analysis + prototype engineering + (existant?) interpersonal skills can be helpful. Which brings us right into...

On [2], my feelings are torn. The day-to-day work that I am doing is inspiring me: I’m still developing products that strive to increase patient access to care (by lowering bills). One of the concepts I am currently exploring is how billing sequencing can lower patient out of pocket expenses. I have some thoughts on the acquisition (though it has not impacted me yet). On one hand, an acquisition of this size could mean access to crucial resources that allows Flatiron to execute against its mission: to learn from the experience of every cancer patient. On all other 15 tentacles, consolidation in healthcare & the development of these gigantic monstrous conglomerates doesn’t necessarily (usually) mean better outcomes for patients. We’ve seen this before. There’s also a piece of me that’s starting to question whether the execution of socially-progressive missions through corporate profiteering isn’t a paradoxical delusion. As a relevant parenthetical, I recently went backpacking with my cousin in Yosemite. During the trip I read Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. I was left with the impression that an institution’s primary mission is to render itself obsolete. It seems to me that the dream institution breaks into an unjust or inefficient paradigm and establishes a self-sustainable ecosystem-- with a plan to exit as soon as its work is done. With a profiteering motive in our capitalist and consumption-centric world, one can always make more money and one’s mission is never complete. I’m not saying not-for-profits or government agencies are the solution (with their equally never-ending famine for power), but I am considering what alternatives would look like. If any of you know of any inspiring organizations that are solving interesting problems and could use someone with my background, hit me up! Part of me still thinks grad school is in the horizon (particularly because it would mean lots of tea and reading and sunlight on my face, which together form my ladder to paradise; all that’s missing is some inspiring company).

And that brings us to [3] the fact that the i’m-running-out-of-time-so-get-out-of-my-way NYC modus operandi is starting to bother me. It still takes effort for me to put it to the waist side and cultivate inner peace. And part of me is not even sure if this effortful practice could be successful in the long term (as the old adage goes, afterall, diz-me com quem andas, dir-te-ei quem és -- tell me who you walk with, I’ll tell you who you are). What do you think?

And that’s a wrap. Those are some thoughts, but mostly questions.

Thanks for hanging with me to the finish line.

I look forward to hearing from you--

With love,