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Mark Bequeaith, 2022 2nd Place Foundations of Ethics and Diversity

Foundations of Ethics and Diversity submissions are open to essays completed for UF 200. Students are encouraged to submit an essay exploring civic, ethical, and/or diversity on a local, regional, national or international topic. If the essay is the product of a team project, all names must be submitted and all team members will share the award. Essays should not exceed 20 pages. Mark Bequeaith wrote the 2nd place submission in the Foundations of Ethics and Diversity category for the 2022 President’s Writing Awards.

About Mark

Mark at an Oregon beach on a cloudy Oregon day wearing a gray rain jacket and a brown cap

I am a Midwestern suburban raised 34 year old healthcare worker. I was very lucky to have chosen medicine as my first attempt at a career. Whether it was being raised a middle child or my parents philosophical teachings, helping people feels as natural to me as breathing. When I realized it could provide a life for myself, I jumped into an X-ray program. I’ve been a lifelong athlete with a love for the outdoors which has brought me through Colorado and out to the Pacific Northwest. Currently in Oregon I am hoping to expand my healthcare knowledge through a nursing school once I’ve obtained my undergraduate. I believe you should never stop improving yourself through life. Large or small, continue to set goals in order to recognize what you are capable of.

Winning Submission – Code of Ethics: Throughout my career

My code of ethics has never been my “code of ethics.” As has been laid out to us, adopting a code requires analysis, mental awareness, and decision making. Writing essays for example as a way to challenge or evaluate the thought processes in our heads by putting them in writing. Giving them substance. Making them more than thought and dissecting them open with critique from ourselves as well as others. I have never done this, not really. Who has the time? Who wants that kind of spotlight on themselves and who wants the responsibility of explaining ones own actions? Not to mention the motivating factors behind them. Well, I think I do. I think I’ve desired the kind of self understanding this critique can bring more and more, ever since I joined the workforce. It’s a yearning for what Kirk and Okazawa-Rey refer to as “Identity formation,” which is accordingly, “a lifelong process that includes discovery of the new; recovery of the old, forgotten, or appropriated; and synthesis of the new and old” (11). The point at which a child, adolescent, or adult begins to accept payment for their services is a colossal turning point in their life. A major shift occurs where the collective effect of all those who played a role in the persons upbringing; parents, siblings, teachers, government, religion, the environment and community they grew up in and around, now get put into practice as this person begins discovering who they are. I believe it is to some degree the end of what Harro refers to as First Socialization (29). It is therefore most prudent that I begin my explanation from the moment I started to work.

Swimming pool covers get filthy in the winter of the midwest. They’re exposed to all manner of weather from Fall to Spring. Debris collects around the middle of circular pools or within the squares between support straps for rectangular pools. During the cold months these compost piles are inactive. Give them a little heat and the rotting will commence. Companies are paid to remove these covers and store them for the summer. My neighbor growing up owned one of these companies and hired me and a friend to clean them systematically every Sunday throughout the summer. We’d usually spend 4-6 hours with power washers and soap, blasting and spraying until we were too tired to lug the massive covers out of the storage container. Had I been alone it would have been a miserable job. Luckily, my friend was there every weekend and we learned more about each other than ever before. I learned that as hard as I worked he would work just as hard. I found out that if i wasn’t feeling too good for the day he would pick up my slack. I can only hope he felt the same way about me because he never had a complaint about my efforts and on the rare cases we did disagree, we talked about it and came to a compromise. He was by all measures of my memory the most virtuous coworker I have ever had and I have strived to recreate my experience with him in every professional relationship since. I do this in two ways. I try to add value wherever I am. Value comes in a lot of forms. In order to be virtuous you must contribute positively on every level available. You can not be shaken by an unexpected challenge and you can not shy away from them. This is where you earn your value because you will find many of your peers walking away or simply ignoring issues that must be addressed. Your specific ideas will not always be successful but your value lies in your ability to engage any subject in a manner thats fosters improvement, not in your ability to solve the problems alone. We overcame a lot of problems together in my first job and if I had the ability I would have that man as a coworker no matter what the position. Which brings me to the second way I attempt to recreate our relationship and that is to produce quality work. We didn’t do a great job of cleaning all those covers because we were getting paid well or had a manager checking our work (we weren’t, we didn’t). We cleaned in a way that we would have cleaned if those covers each belonged to us. If the pools belonged to us. There was never a discussion about it between us. We were done cleaning when we were both satisfied with the quality of the work. We were our own critics and either one of us had the power to tell the other they weren’t happy. Which did occur. I continue to labor to a standard that is not just acceptable to myself but is acceptable by all those who have a stake in the outcome.

How can a white, suburban, lower middle-class, community college new grad survive the gang infested streets of the inner south-side of Chicago? My first job out of college was for a mobile X-ray company. The company made its money on contracts between nursing homes and physician groups. The doctors determined if a patient needed X-rays, and being the more cost effective option, we would go to them rather than send the patient to a hospital. For me it was a rewarding position because of the benefit for the patient. They were in need and I had the ability to save them an entire day of travel and discomfort. Looking back at this position with Weston’s definition in mind, I began to act more ethically the day I started, due to the great benefit to others (3). The company wanted to take it a step further and begin an at-home care initiative. This would extend the benefit to those who don’t possess the means to travel for their care from home. I jumped at the opportunity. Not only was the reward in the work but I thought of it as a way to improve myself. Having some history in the city I knew obstacles would come up in those old buildings that no one could foresee. Often times improvement can be easy. Reading about your chosen field, asking questions to those with more experience, and adjusting your behaviors to maximize performance aren’t always a major inconvenience. Choosing to take on an area of medicine which you had never really heard of, would not be guided through, and was going to be more physical than expected wasn’t just exciting. It promised that if I was successful I would obtain abilities my peers would likely not possess. This was illustrated by my coworkers immediate refusal to do the home-care part of the job. They only saw more work for themselves in participating. They had become accustomed to the clean working environment and handicap accessibility of nursing homes and had no interest of carrying a high-frequency generator mounted on a dolly up narrow staircases. Nor did they fancy entering neighborhoods with the highest murder rates in the country. I wasn’t in love with that idea either but felt confident that if I treated everyone I met the way I would like to be treated, trouble was unlikely to come my way. I also couldn’t justify withholding the same services to people who simply lived in impoverished areas. My theory was put into practice incredibly fast. I performed procedures on all manner of people. Those who intimidated me, those who I worried for, those who impressed me, those who flattered me, those who made me laugh, and those I did not appreciate. I found myself in more than one risky scenario and had multiple conversations with law enforcement.

All of this occurred within the two years I did that job. After it was all said and done I can affirm my belief that if you stand for equality in all that you do, people will notice and follow your lead. It sounds simple but it is difficult. You must face the fact that you have prejudice in your mind just as other individuals you meet have it in theirs. Battle the urges you experience to shy away or overlook details. Take it all in and pay attention. It’s ok, you are not perfect, you’re working on it so start now. I created my approach by focusing on the physical and the verbal. I did not do what would have been comfortable or without thought. This choice would have generated poor behavior and is what Weston describes as flying by instinct (43). Physically I made sure to look people in the eyes and smile no matter what. Verbally I made sure my voice never wavered and was pleasant. These two things, more than any others, kept me safe in the face of criminals and hostile family members. It deescalated those who were intimidated by my presence and appearance. Keep in mind I was the minority in those parts of the world. In order to treat people equally you must keep your behavior equal. People have a misconception that big decisions are the ones which cause inequality but in real life it can be as small as a smile. Be honest with yourself about your behavior. It’s a humbling experience and those are important to have.

Eventually I found myself in my current position as a Cath Lab Tech. This arena is unique in that it is team based. At all times the team consists of at least one specialized physician, a nurse, and an X-ray tech. The team cannot legally function without all three licenses present which creates interesting dynamics. In many ways it puts everyone on an even playing field. Each role is just as vital to the success of the team as the others regardless of education or experience differences. It’s this team composition that drew me in, once again looking to improve my abilities and help others. After stepping into a team for awhile you realize there are more checks and balances than in solo work. What you say to one coworker, you essentially say to all your peers. If you are an honest person this will not concern you as coexisting comes more naturally. Those who have a tendency to manipulate or misrepresent get weeded out quickly. There are more subtle ways of being dishonest though and as Weston describes, when an issue comes to light there is a depth of values called into question (100). Some people make careers over putting in great effort to minimize their workload by offloading it on others willing to help. These people get caught eventually and it is at that point you find out their true colors. Will they accept the responsibility of their actions and apologize? Or will they simply not engage, walk away, maybe point fingers, illustrate others poor behaviors, or even lie? All of these events have occurred at some point and an apology is the only correct answer. Apologizing has a great amount of power in peoples minds. Coworkers may never forget but they will move on if you prove yourself in time. Without an apology you will remain stagnant in the consciousness of those you affect. You will be stuck and cannot blame anyone but yourself.

All points I’ve made are not exclusive to a workplace. They are skills to use at social engagements, amongst your family, and even with opponents. I do not pretend to take credit for them. I owe a great deal of my lessons to my parents, coworkers, teachers, and friends. They absolutely had more to teach but these are those which have had the greatest impact. Do yourself a favor and listen. Take in every word from every human. Do not silence those you disagree with. Listen there as well. Remember the “Ethics of the Person” from Weston which proclaims “persons are special, precious, and have a dignity that demands respect” (105). I learned some of these values the hard way and it was almost always because I did not listen. The behaviors I’ve laid out are now my code of ethics, I challenge you to write down yours.

Works Cited

  1. Harro, Bobbie. “The cycle of socialization.” Readings for diversity and social justice 2 (2018): 27-34.
  2. Kirk, Gwyn, and Margo Okazawa-Rey. “Who am I? Who are my people.” Readings for diversity and social justice 2 (2018): 10-14.
  3. Weston, Anthony. A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox. 4th ed., Oxford University Press, 2018.