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UTHSC College of Medicine Honor Society Sends Message of Empathy, Compassion and Respect During Solidarity Day Observance

Students at UTHSC participated at last year’s Solidarity Day for Compassionate Care  by handing out buttons and cards. This year, the observance will last a week, running today through February 19.

Mukta Panda, MD, FACP, assistant dean for Medical Education and professor of Medicine at the UTHSC College of Medicine in Chattanooga, knows the importance of teaching humanistic care of patients to young doctors and medical students.

That’s why Dr. Panda applied to bring the Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s Gold Humanism Honor Society to the Chattanooga campus in 2009. Through the honor society, the foundation places great importance on instilling and celebrating the idea of humanism early in the careers of physicians. The society is now also on the Memphis and Knoxville campuses of UTHSC.

“The Gold Humanism Honor Society is an avenue that celebrates outcomes tangible to the heart. It celebrates humanism, incorporating body, heart and soul,” Dr. Panda said. “It was always a mission of mine that we take care of the whole patient, blending art and science, and to bring our soul to the role and celebrate humanism.”

The Gold Humanism Honor Society at UTHSC will celebrate not just one day of solidarity, but an entire week.

The Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) was started by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in the late 1990s, when medical educators saw the need to recognize students and residents who demonstrated excellence in both clinical and interpersonal abilities by modeling “the qualities of integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect and empathy.” The organization now has a membership of more than 23,000 medical students, residents, faculty and doctors from across the country, who have been recognized for their compassionate and humanistic care of patients.

At UTHSC, about 10 percent of the third-year class is inducted through a confidential selection process involving peer nominations, reflective writing and a commitment to service. GHHS membership is also recognized as an honor in the official Medical Student Performance Evaluation letters, part of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ electronic residency application process.

Each year, the Gold Humanism Honor Society sponsors Solidarity Day for Compassionate Care. The day was sparked by the care given by Tucson surgeon Randall Friese, MD, to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during the mass shooting in that city in 2011. Solidarity Day for Compassionate Patient Care is now held each year in February.

This year, chapters across America, including the Memphis GHHS chapter, will celebrate not just one day of solidarity, but an entire week from today through February 19.  UTHSC’s observance includes a student video expressing thanks to mentors, as well as distribution of buttons and thank you notes to mentors.

Dr. James Lewis, MD, associate professor and clerkship director in the Department of Surgery at the UT Graduate School of Medicine, serves as the chapter liaison for Knoxville. The Memphis faculty liaison  is Renate Rosenthal, PhD, assistant dean of Behavioral Science Integration in the UTHSC College of Medicine. She mentors the GHHS honorees on the Memphis campus and directs the annual Student Clinician Ceremony,  which is also sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and generously supported by the College of Medicine alumni. The spring event is a celebration to mark the transition from the classroom to the clinical years, when patient care starts in earnest. It is also an occasion to honor residents who were nominated by students as being exemplary clinical teachers and role models. Students who have already completed a year of clinical training share a few encouraging stories from the stage during the ceremony.

Dr. Renate Rosenthal speaks at the 2015 Student Clinician Ceremony held in Memphis each spring.

“You can feel the excitement in the room,” she said. “They are going to finally see real patients. But you can also feel their anxiety, so there is value in stories. A more seasoned student may look back and say, ‘On my first day of the clerkship, I fainted, but it was not the end of the world.’ This gives students permission to do the best they can, but not be so fearful of making mistakes.”

GHHS Initiates a New Program to Support Medical Students

Recently, the UTHSC chapter received a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to continue developing a program initiated by fourth-year medical students and GHHS honorees Rebecca Uhlmann and Robert Hester. The theme they are working under is “maintaining empathy for our patients through self- and peer-care.” The program addresses the issues many medical students face — balancing the stress of making good grades to get into a top residency with focusing on self-care, healthy relationships and wellness. The program’s goal is to create a sense of culture and community among students to care for one another throughout their four years of medical school, and to do this in a way that can be replicated with each new cohort of GHHS inductees.

Members have planned events and activities that will cater to each year of medical school and the challenges typically faced during that year. For example, because first-year medical students are relocating to a new school and perhaps to a new city, GHHS members spoke to them in the fall about how to reach out to fourth-year members who could serve as mentors. They were also given an embossed journal and encouraged to write down thoughts and reflections during their studies. In addition, GHHS honorees mentor the first-year students as they plan the annual “Memorial for Anatomical Donors” event.

Second-year medical students face new challenges. Students are diving into their studies and worrying about passing the next important milestone, the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Board Exam. A care package from senior students that contains treats, useful items and notes of encouragement becomes a welcome gift. GHHS honorees will use funds provided by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to give care packages before the Step 1 study period begins in March.

Third-year brings a transition from classrooms to clinics, interaction with teams and working with patients. GHHS hopes that students have continued to journal their thoughts, as suggested during their first year. Throughout, students are encouraged to reflect on their experiences, and to consider submitting their writings to an online creative journal called “Janus.” This is a student-run publication from the College of Medicine that showcases prose, poetry, artwork and photography from UTHSC students, residents and faculty.

The fourth-year of medical school is a time to celebrate what has been achieved, and to look forward to the next step into the career. GHHS will give a small token to each graduating student as a reminder of UTHSC during the annual Caduceus Ball.

The Mission of Service

“The Gold Humanism Honor Society is an important reminder to medical students of why they went into the medical profession in the first place,” Hester said. “Not only does the work done by our chapter send a message that empathy, compassion, and respect for patients is valued by the College of Medicine, but it reminds students at a critical time in their professional development that despite the sacrifices and stress of medical school, that it is all toward the goal of serving others in a unique and profound way.”

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