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April Fools' Advocate

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, February 13, 2013
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This article appears in the January/February 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Poisson d'Avril, a French idiom that translates as "April fishes," refers to the April fools who continued to celebrate the beginning of the year on April 1, despite the change to the Roman calendar. For Rupa Marya, MD, 37, a hospitalist and faculty member at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, those who trust their intuition—and nature's own start of the year in spring—are hardly fools. She honors that spirit as a singer and guitarist in her band Rupa & The April Fishes. On a yearlong sabbatical from UCSF, where she has worked for 10 years, Marya is taking a six-month-long domestic and international tour with her five-member band. The "electric gumbo radio" band performs and advocates against public health disparities as they travel. The "fools" that Marya honors: "the type of person who has the ability to speak truth to power in times of oppression."

On physicians abroad: When you go to a country and talk to a doctor, you get a quick understanding of how resources are allocated, what groups are affected by a lack of resources, what groups are neglected, and how health is consequently affected. Doctors get a very quick and dirty sense of that because we're on the front lines, so to speak, of society and the structural violence therein.