I rarely have a “normal” visit to the doctor. A regular visit introduces phrases such as “huh, well, perhaps you should try wearing a heart monitor for a few weeks” or “I have never seen these frostbite-like symptoms before.” With one exception, my doctors have provided me with medicine to treat my symptoms without getting to the heart of the situation. That word—treat— boasts multiple meanings: it refers to methods of curing illnesses, to how one handles various matters, and/or to how one behaves towards other people.  Instead of making superficial assessments, we need to learn how to treat people by compassionately and genuinely taking interest in who they are.
In An Anthropologist on Mars, Oliver Sacks relates the struggles of seven creative people with neurological disorders in a humane and personable way. For Sacks, these people are individuals—not science experiences, not “oh, we will just give him drug X and see if he feels better.” Sacks writes of Father Brown, a mentor in the field, who, when asked his secret, said: “I don’t try to get outside the man. I try to get inside him.”  Using this approach, Sacks forms relationships with his patients in their own context; at their homes, at their jobs, etc. By speaking with these individuals on their own terms, Sacks gains a more complete understanding both of the person and of the disorder.
While Sacks endeavors to demonstrate highly empathic treatment for his patients, he is perhaps an anomaly. In the case of “The Last Hippie,” Greg F. (a pseudonym)ends up in Williamsbridge Hospital after a midline tumor causes him to go blind to be severely disabled neurologically and mentally. Sacks describes a schedule of programs for Greg: “physiotherapy, occupational therapy, music groups, drama.”  Although Sacks writes of activities for patients and opportunities for them to socialize, he admits that the back wards of these types of hospitals stifle individual expression. He explains: “There is a simple round that has not changes in twenty, or fifty, years. One is wakened, fed, taken to the toilet, and left to sit in the hallway; one has lunch, one is taken to bingo, one has dinner and goes to bed.”  The personnel may “treat” the patients in the medical sense of the word, however, the patients fail to receive personal, compassionate treatment.
Sacks is not alone in his observations. Dr. Temple Grandin also notes: “I find a very high correlations between the ways animals are treated and the handicapped.”  Instead of pitying and mistreating those with various conditions, Grandin challenges us to see the value within the disorder. In a 1990 article she writes:
Aware adults with autism…may ask why nature or God created such horrible conditions as autism, manic depression, and schizophrenia. However, if the genes that caused these conditions were eliminated there might be a terrible price to pay. It is possible that persons with bits of these traits are more creative, or possibly even geniuses…If science eliminated these genes, maybe the whole world would be taken over by accountants. 
Grandin asserts that wonderful things can result even in the most difficult situations. However, unless we treat all people with the compassion and allow all people to let their unique personalities shine, we will fail to grow as an inclusive society.
Contrastingly, Sacks observes Dr. Carl Bennett (a pseudonym) with his surgical-outpatients and is impressed by Bennett’s care and concern. Bennett’s coworkers characterize him as an incredibly compassionate surgeon who makes his patients feel valued.  Bennett and Father Brown are each worthy of emulation: Both exhibit an interest in the person, not simply the medical situation. They earn trust and respect by looking beyond what is “wrong” with the person to see the whole person.
When I first started thinking about this blog post I reflected on our class’s eugenics discussion, immigration debate, personal space and transgender concerns, among other interesting conversations and I found that all of these topics boil down to one thing: how we treat people as categories and not as individuals. My own treatment at the doctor’s office is a testament to that. As a society we like to place people into boxes to determine proper treatment. In the museum profession we organize special tours for people with autism or who are blind to demonstrate inclusivity. Universal design goes beyond and seeks to make all aspects
of museums accessible to all people. We do not treat people very well, and so we need to revamp the system. We need to try to get inside and get to know people for who they are, and not what they are (or are not) capable of, and in doing so we will all gain a much richer world.
 “Treat,” Dictionary.com, 2015, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/treat?s=t.
 Oliver Sacks, An Anthropologist on Mars (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), xix.
 Sacks, An Anthropologist, 51.
 Sacks, An Anthropologist, 69.
 Sacks, An Anthropologist, 280.
 Sacks, An Anthropologist, 292.
 Sacks, An Anthropologist, 91-93.