Dallas may not be a very interesting place to visit, but it sure is a nice place to live - if you have a lot of money, that is. It is flat, sprawling and largely suburban. The socioeconomic disparity is ludicrious, particularly when you go from the gaudy, garish mansions that barely fit their lots to the poor neighborhoods, like the one where my friend manages a free clinic that serves uninsured people (who, let's be honest, are probably cleaning up after the families and tending the gardens of the former). Though they are thousands of miles apart, Dallas felt eerily similar to Jakarta, not only because of the wealth imbalance but also the pervasive religious and social conservatism.
I tagged along to lecture one morning with my friend, who is a first-year medical student at UT Southwestern. We arrived a few minutes late and took seats in the back. The professor had already started his presentation, gesturing with a laser pointer at slides that were too crowded with graphics and small print to glean anything useful. During the break my friend gestured at her peers. The Mormons, who essentially comprise the ten percent non-Texas resident portion of the student body, sat in the front row. Behind them were the evangelical Christians. Atheists and liberals were scattered toward the back of the room.
When I asked her how school was going, she admitted being frustrated by the close-mindedness of her classmates. Despite being born and raised in Dallas, her views are more left-wing and secular. Fortunately, she's found a core group of like-minded students. One of them, who completed her pre-med coursework at UT Austin, recalled how in the first biology lecture, the professor proclaimed, "Here we teach evolution." (This, in the "non-Texan" part of Texas, to a room of young adults - most of whom were destined for the medical field).
It's a bit scary to think that the future of medicine may very well involve physicians who wouldn't treat my gay friends with respect or would refuse to terminate a pregnancy regardless of the circumstances. Science and progress, it seems, can be mutually exclusive. This is not to generalize that all doctors from the South are detrimentally conservative, but the more I learn about the inner workings of medical school, the more critical I'm going to be in choosing my doctors based on where they were educated.