Each year, the national Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) celebrates and commemorates compassionate patient care during the GHHS Solidarity Week. This year the KU GHHS chapter asked its faculty, resident, and student members to reflect on what it means to be a physician –particularly what it means to be a compassionate, humanistic physician. We hope you can join us this week in celebration and reflection of your personal and professional journey, and how to continually strive for compassionate, kind, and gentle human-centered care.
To learn more about the GHHS Solidarity Week, visit their website.
Kate Rampon, MD — Department of Family Medicine & Community Health, KU School of Medicine (KC)
The humanistic physician reaches their arms around the disease that brings the patient to their doorstep to encounter the person on the other side. Armed with a scalpel of curiosity, they strive to gently peel away the layers of mistrust and structural barriers that keep them from seeing their patient clearly. Calmly, they hold space for the patient to be authentic. Then, when both parties can see each other in the light of mutual understanding, healing may begin.
Tessa Rohrberg, MD — Department of Family & Community Medicine, KU School of Medicine (Wichita)
When I think about what it means to be a compassionate, humanistic physician, some of my favorite moments with my most memorable patients flood my mind. Those moments when we were honest with one another, we revealed our fears and hopes, shared human touch, and maybe even cried together. The truth is, these moments of acknowledging my own humanity have made me a better physician.
Adam Wetzel, MD — Internal Medicine/Psychiatry, PGY5
I believe we can each become a compassionate, humanistic physician when we make the choice during a patient encounter not only to consider a patient’s symptoms, objective diagnostic information, and standard-of-care treatment plan but also to consider a patient’s emotions, motivations, values, past experiences, and future goals.
Kakra Boye-Doe, MS4
To be a compassionate, humanistic physician is to fulfill the prerequisite of a physician; to be a compassionate, humanistic physician is to see the human first–and not the patient. To be a compassionate, humanistic physician is to validate the experiences of your patient; to be a compassionate, humanistic physician is to be against all forms of bigotry–through words, but particularly through actions. To be a compassionate, humanistic physician is to be compassionate to yourself–protecting your peace, remaining engaged in what brings you fulfillment, imparting the same grace towards others for yourself and staying connected with family and friends.
Ashlie Elver, MS4
A humanistic doctor will never judge their patient. This requires not just an understanding, but an acceptance that you will never know what your patient faces every day. From this grows behavior that is always evolving—meeting your patient where they are—with humanism at its root.
QeeQee Gao, MS4
To be a physician is to see our patients for who they truly and fully are, not the content of their blood or the length of their problem list, and to be grounded in our shared humaneness. The patient-physician relationship is a dance between the healer and the ill. Yet the differential in medical knowledge, power, or perhaps even health itself, masks an often forgotten truth. Transcending the differences that commonly and superficially divide us, we – patient and physician – are not so different.
We are the same – all, too, human, and all worthy to be called so.
Aquib Jamil, MS4
Ultimately, I think being a humanistic physician requires us to see our patients, first and foremost, as human beings. I believe medicine and medical education is inherently dehumanizing in some ways because it forces us to learn about the human body as a series of constitutive parts. Humanism asks us to unlearn that to an extent and see our patients as more than organ systems, problem lists, and differential diagnoses. Instead, we need to see them as people, with meaningful lives and experiences that go far beyond a single hospital encounter.
Rachel Jenkins, MS4
As a student, it can be difficult to see the “impact” you are making on patient care, and I believe this can contribute to the loss of empathy that is seen during the clinical years of school as you minimize each patient to simply a “learning opportunity.” One patient I cared for had pneumonia, and his body was beginning to fail. Each afternoon I spoke with him and his daughters. They shared stories about who he was as a father and everything that he loved in life. As his mental status diminished, he would become agitated with lab draws, and his daughters asked that I be called to help calm him. When the palliative team began discussing the possibility of hospice care during family meetings, the daughters looked to me for reassurance that they were making the “right” decision. I was both humbled and honored to be the one they turned to during these emotional meetings. It is interactions like these that remind me that each patient has an entire life of experiences interplaying with their current hospitalization or diagnosis. As I look towards my career, I hope to continue to learn about each patient beyond the medicine to maintain their humanity.
Shivani Patel, MS4
It is necessary to remember that it is a privilege to be a physician. A compassionate physician is able to be the relentless force of optimism when others have lost reason for hope. With this, there is an understanding that as physicians we have the utmost ability to impact another person’s life. A humanistic physician understands that humanity deserves our time, our ears, and our compassion.
Christina Ward, MS4
To be a compassionate, humanistic physician is to recognize the value of being present for your patients and their loved ones. Presence, in and of itself, is therapeutic. Eliminate barriers and hierarchy to meet them where they are, human to human rather than doctor to patient.