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In each of us, there is a world

In each of us, there is a world…

…but one person is not just one person. In each of us, there is a world, webbing out, reaching others. Creating reactions—sometimes equal, sometimes opposite. We rush to say, one life gone. But each of us is world. And today a world has been lost. - Funeral homily by Father Lantom, Daredevil, Season 2/4, Penny and Dime.

This Daredevil quote captured a core concept of our work. A person is a world, not just one person. This idea challenges individual-focused notions engrained in society, medicine, and research.

For example, in medicine, the doctor-patient relationship is taught as the archetype of a clinical interaction. Student doctors across the world are trained to focus on one individual at a time. All characteristics—biological, genetic, social—are considered traits of an individual, embodied in the patient’s constitution. From this emerges an ethic of individual autonomy and responsibility that has positive and negative aspects.

Our work challenges and complicates this patient-as-solitary-figure notion. A person webs out, reaches others, and creates reactions. Accentuating this web and what travels through it teaches us about forces radiating in both directions. The structure and composition of the web influence a person’s behavior, response to adversity, healing, and dying. Conversely, there are ripple effects outward, influencing the thoughts, health, and well-being of those reached.

As a physician, there’s a limit, quickly reached, that forces focus on one person, which is complex enough. However, what if the health that the doctor so desperately wants to improve is specifically dependent on those around the person? This is what we’re seeing in our work. A wider lens is necessary to help and heal an individual.

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