Fourth-year medical student and UTHSC Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) Chattanooga Student liaison, Larissa Wolf remembers when she received a care package during her second-year of medical school from the UTHSC Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) chapter. The gift came just in time, since Wolf would be spending most of the year applying the information she learned in the classroom to study and excel in the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 Board Exam.
The care package came from her peers, senior medical students, and contained treats, useful items and notes of encouragement.
“Receiving the care package eased my anxiety,” said Wolf, who became a member of GHHS and served as the Chattanooga Student Liaison this past year. “People are behind you, even if you don’t necessarily see them. It’s important to be mindful about taking care of ourselves.”
Members of the society have maintained that tradition, while also starting new initiatives. The chapter’s hard work has recently been recognized by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation with the “Exemplary” award.
The ranking is the highest given by the Gold Foundation to a chapter that continuously strives to increase engagement and empathy within their community, encouraging resilience and team building, teaching advocacy and leadership skills, and highlighting compassionate patient care.
“This recognition shows how passionate our cohort is about providing humanistic care,” said Victoria Goodwin, M4, and GHHS Memphis Student Liaison.
The society recognizes medical students who exemplify humanism in medicine. Membership into the society starts with nominations by classmates, identifying peers who continuously show excellence in both clinical and interpersonal abilities and model the qualities of integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect, and empathy.
Nominees then submit essays. Those are judged by a selection committee composed of current GHHS members and faculty. All are blinded to the identity of the writers. About 10 percent of third-year UTHSC medical students are inducted into the society
“One thing that really brought that (the spirit of humanism) out was when everyone started putting in their ideas for their projects to do this year,” Goodwin said. “Our members were really passionate about their projects and most were a continuation of something they were already doing.”
Those projects included volunteering at free clinics, working with underserved patient populations, and continuing the traditions started by their peers in previous years, including the annual Resident Appreciation Day, the care packages for M2s, and connecting with alumni mentors to build resiliency.
As GHHS members, students build leadership and interprofessional skills since the projects and activities hosted by the society are led by the students, with encouragement and support from GHHS faculty and advisers.
Mukta Panda, MD, MACP, FRCP-London, assistant dean for Well Being and Medical Student Education, founded the UTHSC GHHS Chapter in Chattanooga in 2009 and currently serves as Chapter Leader and adviser for the Chattanooga campus. Renate Rosenthal, PhD, Professor and assistant dean of Behavioral Science Integration, serves as adviser for the Memphis campus, and Pam Scott, director for Graduate and Medical Student Education, and Courtney Orloski, medical student services specialist, serve as GHHS chapter administrative liaisons.
“Our job is to make sure that students can follow up on the things they really want to do because the fourth year is so busy,” said Dr. Rosenthal. The fourth year of medical school brings with it exams, as well as residency applications and interviews. “It is much to the credit to the students that in spite of all this, they rise to the occasion and follow through on their good intentions and projects.” Victoria Goodwin, M4, GHHS Memphis Student Liaison was key in role modeling and coordinating the activities on the Memphis campus.
The main project this year for the Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga campuses was the “Tell Me More” initiative, which highlighted compassionate patient care. The project allowed students to ask patients a few simple questions about themselves. The information was then posted on a card placed in a patient’s room. The card served as a conversation starter for anyone interacting with that patient, adding a much-needed human dimension to the patient’s care.
Jami Reece, M4, GHHS Knoxville Student Liaison, said the “Tell Me More” project helped her take the time to slow down and spend more time talking to patients about their stories outside of gathering just their medical history. “This reinforced in me that it’s important to get to know our patients beyond their medical history, it helps them feel more at home in the clinic and I’ll take that with me into my residency program.”
The chapter hopes to start a new tradition with the “Tell Me More” project.
“We are proud of our inductees and their projects are examples of their compassion and relationship-centered care,” said Dr. Panda. “You don’t have a choice if you’re going to leave a legacy, but we have a choice on what kind of legacy you are going to leave. Each of these students will pass on this legacy for other students and will continue this wherever they go into their residencies. Working with these students and experiencing and witnessing firsthand their human connection with their teams, with their patients, gives me joy, hope and comfort that our vocation is in good hands.”