In a few weeks, we will be celebrating the Gold Humanism Awards that are presented to medical students and residents, all of whom embrace ideals indicative of stellar care providers.
Showing compassion for others, advocating for humanistic patient care, desiring to become a force for improving health care for all and serving as role models for humanism in medicine are all highly valued qualities in those who deliver direct patient care.
Recognizing those who exemplify the best of caring in medicine is part of the legacy of the late Dr. Arnold Gold, a world-renowned pediatric neurologist who, along with his wife, Sandra, co-founded the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. Its goals are to promote and foster the human connection in medicine and to ensure all patients receive compassionate care.
The Golds visited UMMC in 2005 when the Medical Center’s chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society was founded. It’s named for Dr. Jeannette Pullen, UMMC’s longtime division chief of pediatric hematology and oncology, who did so much to advance the care provided to children with cancer, not just here, but nationally. Coincidentally, Dr. Pullen, who went to part-time status a few years ago, will fully retire this summer.
During that first induction ceremony for UMMC’s chapter, which I presided over as associate dean of academic affairs, Dr. “Bev” Evans, longtime chair of pediatrics, had this to say, “Dr. Pullen has dedicated her career not only to the science of medicine but also to its humanism.” He went on to talk about how much her approach to patient care exemplified the qualities the awards recognize, “In a field that can be so heartbreaking, Dr. Pullen has dealt with children and families with such compassion that she has been an inspiration to countless students, residents and faculty for three decades.”
When it was her turn to speak at that 2005 ceremony, Dr. Pullen offered five tips to care providers to help strengthen their relationships with patients and their families: Explain things well; Be honest, but always kind, empathetic and respectful; Talk to the patient and his or her family in words they understand; Take time to listen; and earn patients’ and their families’ trust every day. Simply put, she encouraged those in attendance to “Let them know you care.”
The compassionate way Dr. Pullen approached her career is a model for us all to emulate, no matter what our job function.
Each year’s third-year medical school class picks honorees from among their classmates and the residents who teach and guide them. The 2018-19 initiates, selected in early spring for induction in July, include 22 rising M4s and six residents. All meet a very high bar set by the M3s, who cast ballots for their peers based on the following questions:
“Which classmate would you like working at your side during a medical emergency?”
“Name the classmate who best personifies the quote, ‘The secret of good patient care lies in caring for the patient.’”
“Which classmate has shown exceptional interest in service to his or her community?”
“Which classmate would you want as your doctor, or that of a loved one?”
The M3s vote for six residents based on similar questions that include:
“Does the resident demonstrate compassion and empathy consistently in the delivery of care?”
“Are they approachable and accessible to students, welcoming opportunities for teaching and one-on-one mentoring?”
Those being inducted into the society next month will include M4s Madeline Campbell, Ronnie Case, Morgan Davis, Miles DeBardeleben, Ashli Fitzpatrick, Callie Grey, Katherine Hall, Bonnie Hodge, Meredith Jordan, Muzamil Khawaja, Samuel Metcalf, Hannah Miller, Denise Powell, Resham Rahat, Logan Ramsey, Peyton Reves, Mark Rushing, Billy Lee Sullivan, Helen Turner, John Waddell, Christina Wallace and Hunter Wilkerson.
Resident inductees who will receive the Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award are Dr. Bryan Gaddy, Dr. John Caleb Grenn, Dr. Sarah Kerut, Dr. Joshua Plant, Dr. Hannah Ray and Dr. John Rushing.
The Medical Center’s Gold Humanism Honor Society is advised by Dr. Lyssa Weatherly, assistant professor of geriatrics, and administrated by Lucy Varela-Quintero, a project manager in the Office of Medical Education. They are wonderful examples of what these awards are all about.
Even though the Gold Awards are limited to medicine, cultivating humanism, compassion and empathy is what we aspire to for all of our learners, health professionals and employees.
Every day, we encounter patients who are ill, hurting, scared and, in some cases, dying. Their families are worried and in pain. We can provide the highest levels of expert care and the most powerful technology, but these must be given within a framework of human caring and compassion.
And when all the tools that are available to heal and to save lives are not enough, what families will remember is how we treated them with dignity and thoughtfulness in their ultimate time of need.
We also need to practice these same habits of humane caring and concern on each other. At the end of the day, we are all human beings, with limitations and imperfect knowledge. We need to console and comfort one another. Compassion is contagious, and if we can foster an atmosphere of compassion among ourselves, it’s sure to find its way into how we care for and interact with our patients and families in our effort to build A Healthier Mississippi.