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By Tina Shelton
Medical students at the University of Hawai`i wore their hearts on their sleeves during Valentine’s week, and just watching them warmed our hearts. Members of the Arnold P. Gold Humanism in Medicine Society commemorated Humanism in Medicine Week by doing what comes naturally to them: showing the compassion that has inspired them to become physicians. The students spent hours creating colorful hand-made greeting cards for children who are struggling with illness, and they proudly displayed unforgettable passages from lectures or conversations with their teachers at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).
Excellence, Compassion, Empathy, Altruism, Service, Integrity
On a wall lined with posters on the medical education building’s third floor, the definitions of what constitutes humanism in medicine were displayed, along with the photograph of each faculty member and one of their pertinent, memorable quotes. “Excellence is a lifelong goal…” read part of one sentence from Associate Dean for Medical Education Dr. Richard Kasuya.
“Medicine treats the body…compassion heals the soul,” was the concept imparted by Director of Medical Education Dr. Damon Sakai.
“Truly and honestly giving of ourselves to serve our patients,” is how Dr. Damon Lee described the quality of altruism.
“Respect is a concept that we must learn, consistently practice and reinforce. Above all, it is something that we must earn,” was the sage advice of JABSOM Admissions Director Dr. Ivy Nip-Asano.
Empathy, as described by Dr. William Haning, “is a translation of what we hear, see, sense in another, to a language that we know. It will be why they come to you to be their doctor.”
Dr. Jill Omori, founder of the Homeless Outreach and Medical Education (HOME) Project, where medical students provide health screenings and care for homeless citizens, spoke– appropriately–of service. “Service you provide to others is what will leave your greater footprint in this world.”
The fact that each of these wise physicians is a JABSOM graduate who embodies those qualities isn’t lost on the students working here toward their own medical degrees.
Director of Student Affairs Dr. Richard Smerz reminded the students that “It is through integrity that the physician establishes trust. It is the essence, the soul of the physician.”
Messages of compassion and care
The medical students spent hours crafting the colorful greeting cards for the children. Second-year students Jolana Gollero, Momar Mazhar and Jessica Yuen sat around a table filled with crayons, markers, rolls of cheerful stickers and construction paper, hard at work. Fourth-year student Malia Takeuchi, perhaps displaying an aptitude for surgery, was entrusted with the scissors, and busied herself cutting out big hearts outlined on pink paper. When the students were pau, the results included a birthday card with a big rabbit on the cover, a carrot on the inside and the words, “A Hoppy Birthday to You!” Another card featured a row of green happy faces and the words, “ha ha ha”, with the message “Happy Birthday” inside. The greeting cards will be shared by the organization HUGS, which stands for Help, Understanding and Group Support, and serves families with young people up to age 21 who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.
The generous support of the Arnold P. Gold Humanism in Medicine Society and the Hawai`i Academy of Family Physicians made it possible for our students to offer special events during Humanism in Medicine Week, from Feb. 10-14, 2014.
Photographs are by Arnold Kameda.