Miller School Students Inducted into Gold Humanism Honor Society

Karyn Meshbane, an M.D./M.P.H. student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, understands the importance of compassionate patient care. “As a future doctor, I know that academic training is essential,” she said. “But your grades in school don’t matter as much as your ability to reach out and connect personally with your patients.”

On March 24, Meshbane became one of 32 third-year Miller School students inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society, a national organization dedicated to fostering integrity, compassion, respect, empathy and clinical experience among students, doctors and other medical professionals.

“Every student admitted to the Miller School has those qualities,” said Robert W. Irwin, M.D., associate professor and interim Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, who was instrumental in establishing the honor society’s Miller School chapter last year and acts as its faculty advisor. “You are the ones who came to the top in our peer-nomination process.”

Students were selected for the honor society by their peers based on criteria that included having good listening skills with their patients, exceptional interest in service to their communities, and qualities of a compassionate doctor who would be recommended to care for a loved one, and whether they would be a likely choice for a highly competitive residency program.

Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, ccongratulated the inductees at the luncheon ceremony at University of Miami Hospital.

“Humanistic medicine is rooted in showing concern for our fellow humans,” he said. “You are exemplars of that tradition, demonstrating compassion, concern, and fidelity to duty.”

One of the highlights of the ceremony was an inspirational appearance by Arnold P. Gold, M.D., and his wife, Sandra Gold, Ed.D., who launched the honor society that now has 138 medical school chapters.

“During the 1980s I became increasingly concerned that the explosion of science and technology was resulting in less interest being paid to the patient,” said Gold. “That crystallized one morning during rounds when a resident referred to a young child as ‘the brain tumor in room 207.’ I was upset that he knew nothing about the child’s interests, fears or family, so I discontinued rounds until our residents could provide a good social history of each child in the hospital.”

After talking with his wife, Gold decided to create a foundation that would address humanism and immediately received the support of Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“Sandy became our fundraiser, and 28 years later, we are still helping residents address the humanity of their patients,” he said.

Emphasizing the importance of compassionate care, Sandra Gold told the story of Randy Freise, M.D., who treated U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was seriously wounded in a mass shooting in Tucson in 2011.

“When Dr. Friese was asked later what was most helpful to her remarkable recovery, he replied, ‘I stood next to her, held her hand, and told her she was safe in the hospital and we would take care of her,’” she said.

Later in the ceremony, fourth-year student Spencer Summers and Marie Denise Gervais, M.D., professor of family medicine and Assistant Dean for Admissions and Diversity, were presented with the Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s Tow Humanism in Medicine awards, reflecting their deep commitment to compassionate care. This award is for one student and one faculty member who practice the value of humanism in the delivery of care to patients and family. The acronym I.E., CARES (Integrity, Excellence, Compassion, Altruism, Respect, Empathy and Service) describes the qualities that define these physicians.

“I decided to become a doctor because I have loved ones who have needed medical care,” said Summers, who recently accepted an orthopedics residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “The Miller School fosters the values of humanism, with a focus on treating the whole person, not just a disease.”

Gervais also was chosen to give the keynote talk to the honor society inductees. She cited the pioneering leadership of Lynn Carmichael, M.D., who founded the first U.S. department of family medicine at the University of Miami in 1966.

“He conceived of a humanistic approach, based on compassion, continuity of care and fidelity to the patient,” she said. “If there was nothing more he could do medically for an elderly patient, he would pull out a pair of nail clippers and comfort them while trimming their nails,” she said. “I, too, carry nail clippers in my back pack.”

Gervais noted that practicing humanistic medicine has become more challenging in an era when physicians are encouraged to see a high volume of patients and order multiple lab tests, rather than apply “old-fashioned listening skills.”

She added, “I commend the Golds for creating this wonderful honor society to preserve and protect our values.”

A gallery of photographs from the event can be found here.

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