Gold Humanism Awards Recognize Students with Compassion, Empathy and Respect for the Whole Patient

Recognition from your peers is often the most meaningful. At the recent fourth annual Gold Humanism Awards Initiation Banquet, 33 students and one faculty member from the Miller School of Medicine learned first hand what that feels like.

These awards, supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, are important because they “bring to light those who are thriving in a difficult training environment and empower them to spread the ‘light,’ as it were, to make all of medicine more ‘wholistic,’” said Robert W. Irwin, M.D., faculty advisor for the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society.

In other words, students nominated their peers for an ability to see the whole patient, even in the most challenging clinical situations, added Irwin, professor and Interim chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Special Recognition

Each year, the nominations single out a student-faculty pair to receive the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.

“The award is special because recognition from your students is the true testament that they have heard and felt the message,” said award recipient Stephen N. Symes, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and associate dean of diversity and inclusion at the Miller School. Symes was also the guest speaker for the event.

“Humanism is important because the bandwidth of medical school curriculum and even residency training doesn’t encompass the depth and breadth of the human experience, and how this impacts health,” Symes said. “If we know their lives, loves, their losses and hopes, our young doctors have a chance to tackle the really tough problems for the most challenging patients.

“It is a great honor to have been recognized by my peers for the receipt of the Leonard Tow Award,” said Stan Ivanov, M.D./M.P.H. Candidate Class of 2018. “I have the privilege of working and studying alongside some of the most talented, kindest, and most hardworking future physicians there are, so to be recognized for this award is truly humbling and I am grateful.”

Symes and Ivanov “were selected by their peers for emulating caring, human and kind physicians,” Irwin said.

With medical students at the Miller School, Symes started the Human Rights clinic at San Juan Bosco Clinic in Miami for victims of torture and abuse. Symes’ training as a medical educator, experience with disadvantaged populations, and focus on diversity and inclusion allow him to mentor and train scholars to achieve knowledge and experience in medicine, with a focus on health disparities, and increasing numbers and quality of underrepresented minorities in the health care arena.

Ivanov was born in Bulgaria and moved to the United States when he was 11 years old. He completed an undergraduate degree at the University of Miami with concentrations in biology and mathematics before pursuing a combined M.D./M.P.H. degree at the Miller School. He plans to complete his training in internal medicine and specialize in hematology/oncology.

Following remarks from Edward Abraham, M.D., executive vice president for health affairs, CEO of UHealth, and dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, and Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., executive dean for education and policy, each of whom congratulated the newly elected members of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, the 33 M.D. and M.D./M.P.H. candidates received their awards.

“It is great to see them get recognized for being themselves,” Irwin said.

In Memoriam

Arnold P. Gold, M.D., for whom the awards are named, and who founded the Gold Foundation dedicated to keeping health care human, passed away in January. This year’s banquet and ceremony were held in his memory.
At the close of the event, the students took an oath to continue the ideals for which they were recognized. They agreed to:

• Be a role model and mentor for humanism in medicine

• Champion the proper balance between scientific and humanistic patient care

• Inspire colleagues to promote humanism throughout the healthcare system

• Advocate humanistic patient care locally, regionally, and nationally

• Nurture fellowship in the Gold Humanism Honor Society membership

• Help those struggling to overcome the barriers to humanism in medicine

• Be a force for improving healthcare for everyone.

Improved Patient Care is the Ultimate Goal

The beneficial impact of the Gold Humanism Awards goes beyond each individual who receives recognition.

“One of the most effective ways to spread compassion and humanism is to recognize it and by doing so challenge physicians and healthcare workers to embody the qualities of integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect and empathy,” Ivanov said. “Possessing these qualities allows for a better understanding of our patients and in turn allows us, to provide better care for patients in their time of need.”

“I would like to thank Drs. Gardner and Abraham for their support of this endeavor and our students,” Irwin said. “Their leadership keeps this going.”

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