The masks we wear: authenticity, vulnerability, and innovation in TB

The current issue of the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases presents early and exploratory efforts to change ingrained habits in health care facilities. Research papers demonstrate that the masks that we wear include not only N95 respirators, but also the masks of professional distance, stoicism, authoritative knowledge, and, in the case of tuberculosis (TB) researchers, a studied neutrality or ‘objectivity’ toward this work.

I’d also like to share a poem, by Paul Laurence Dunbar, who suffered from TB and died at the age of 33.

We Wear The Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!


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