Digital Post by Yirby


A year ago, Chika Stacy Oriuwa was completing her degree at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. As a member of an underserved and radicalized group, she became accustomed to micro- and macro-aggressions that questioned how she could succeed in academic spaces as a Black woman and medical student. With her graduation approaching, she crafted a spoken word poem that emphasized the importance of her racial identity when achieving the title of a physician, expressing how “when [she] step[s] into this white coat, [she is] more Black than ever”.

Like Chika Stacy’s spoken word poem, I also conceptualize the “white coat” as a symbol of the medical education system – one that governs from a top-down approach. But, it can also be representative of a system that traditionally only held space for white people. For example, just last month, Queen’s University announced a new course for the upcoming semester whose objective is to teach about their medical school’s past ban on Black students – which was in effect up until the 1960s. And so, as Oriuwa stepped into her white coat, she literally entered a system that is reflective of white people and white spaces – spaces that did not, and until not long ago, refused to, know her.


Uncertainty’s Role in Generating Creativity

Students who do not feel represented by their faculty, administration, and peers may not feel connected to the space that they’re in, or the work that they’re doing. It’s hard to grow in a place where you feel like you don’t belong. But in a similar vein, it’s also hard to grow when you feel completely comfortable. This is the essence of Dr. Jay Baruch’s paper “Doctors as Makers” on the power of uncertainty in creative applications, in which he extends creativity as a tool to clinical practice and medical education. This makes me wonder, is overwhelming uncertainty how the postsecondary education system pushes these underrepresented students to the edges of creativity?

Baruch suggests this may be the case. He believes that if systemic uncertainty produces a problem, then, in theory, this pushes for solution(s). These solutions can come from logical, knowledge-based approaches, but also makes way for a plethora of creative answers. Adele de Jager et al.’s systematic review found that research with digital storytelling also makes use of uncertainty to creatively find answers. Particularly, when research participants consider the audience that they’re speaking to as “unknown”, they use creative thinking skills to imagine talking with a more “open-minded by ignorant audience” who is more receptive to their ideas and experiences. In this kind of approach, creative skillsets can face uncertainty head-on. But in a cyclical way, accepting uncertainty and moving through it helps to develop creative skills that can be used in a way that personalizes one’s way of life.


Moving and Making

In the heart of this area of not knowing, not belonging, not connected, one thing seems palpable: how people feel. And we can acknowledge the way underrepresented groups share their feelings through radically listening, seeing, and noticing just a little more closely. Oriuwa hints at the ways that she and other underserved people creatively change how they navigate their lives in order to adapt and thrive in spaces of “not knowing”. How she funnels her frustration into poetry, others often creatively manipulate language by code switching to survive at work and school. It’s not so much of a stretch to say that creativity is profoundly important for these communities, and is intimately embedded in the ways that they (and we) survive.

An illustration by frances_cannon on Instagram (click image for link)

Creativity as a response to these types of systems can become a form of resilience, where creative tools shape survival into art. Frances Cannon’s illustration exemplifies this idea: we see a woman within a ring of flowers, sitting atop a stack of books. The grey and dull texts send a message hoping for growth and change, perhaps to an old and out-dated education system. With colourful flowers blooming all around her, the top portion of image is divided into a space of colour and creativity. A flower next to her knowledge centre – her brain – seems to flourish within the circle of growth, and outside of the area of knowing. Perhaps this is exactly what Oriuwa and Baruch mean when they speak of creativity in the realm of uncertainty or “not knowing” – a resilient and creative space for growth, outside of the education system, which can push underserved groups to the margins. And perhaps this is how creativity is generated – simply by being here.