WRITER: ELIZABETH HAMILTON
CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 335-8034
UI College of Medicine stresses humanism to its students
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa College of Medicine has been
changing the way medical students think about their studies, their patients
Learning to mend broken bones or recognize symptoms of illness have
always been part of the medical school curriculum. Medical education often
focuses on teaching students to diagnose and treat illness but students
also must learn to consider their patients, whose needs may extend beyond
physical relief from ailments.
Attuned to these concerns, the college broadened the scope of its curriculum
and fostered new programs to highlight the importance of a humanistic approach
to medical practice. Changes to the medical curriculum, which began in
the 1995-96 academic year, included Foundations of Clinical Practice, a
course for the students' first two years of medical school. The course
helps students go beyond developing analytical skills to become responsible,
caring and compassionate physicians. Topics include biomedical ethics,
problem-based learning, behavioral medicine, human sexuality, patient communication
skills and continuity of care.
In partnership with the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the college implemented
a White Coat Ceremony three years ago for first-year medical students to
emphasize caring in health care, and to stress the significance of the
doctor-patient relationship. The hope is that students will regard patient
care as more than just a matter of technical skill.
For the past two years the college has held an Orientation to Clinical
Courses and Skills program in June. This was designed to introduce third-year
medical students to their clinical studies, which involve less time in
the classroom and more time learning in patient care settings. Throughout
the week, organizers, including a committee of student volunteers, introduced
humanistic topics related to what students will face in their final two
years. With support from the Gold Foundation, this year's program included
a Clinical Beginnings ceremony and luncheon at the end of the weeklong
program, which formally recognized the medical class of 2000.
Third-year medical student Anji Newell was one of the members of the
planning committee for this year's program. She volunteered because of
the significance of the transition in her own medical education and the
overall message of the program itself. "I think it is important to
recognize various milestones on our journey to become competent, caring
physicians," Newell said. "I welcomed the opportunity to be involved
in a project that acknowledges the commitment of medical professionals
to provide humanistic, holistic, patient-centered care."
End-of-life issues was one of the topics the committee chose to cover
during the orientation week this year. Kirk Payne, M.D., UI associate in
internal medicine and biomedical ethics, developed the palliative care
aspect of the program, titled Death and the Dying Patient. Hospice nurses,
social workers, physicians and patients gathered to share their experiences
with students. In one instance, author Evan Handler spoke about his experiences
as a leukemia patient, which are chronicled in his book "Time on Fire."
Handler provided a patient's perspective on the physician's impact on care,
and how patients perceive the care they are given.
Another presentation, The View from the Other Side of the Examination
Table, offered viewpoints from doctors who have been patients. Jerold C.
Woodhead, M.D., UI associate professor of pediatrics and faculty advisor
for the orientation program, said the presentation helped students because
"the doctor who has been sick himself or herself can more effectively
say, 'Hey, this really had an impact on me' or 'This changed the way I
viewed my medical practice.'"
The Project Art program at the UI Hospitals and Clinics also contributed
to the week's events with the presentation, The Artist as Witness to Illness
and Recovery. Project Art director Mark Towner spoke about patients who
are able to cope with illness and express their feelings through artistic
expression. Project Art "added another dimension to our students'
ability to see how patients perceive their illnesses and the people involved
in their health care," Woodhead said.
The issues raised during the orientation week continue as an important
aspect of education throughout the academic year. Students are responsible
for ongoing assignments that reflect the seminars, lectures and small group
activities that make up the orientation week.
At the Clinical Beginnings ceremony and luncheon, students and faculty
recognized those who serve as role models for incorporating humanism into
medical practice. The class of 2000 honored George V. Lawry, M.D., UI associate
professor of internal medicine, for his teaching contributions. Six medical
residents at the UIHC were chosen for honors by the class of 1999. Bonnie
Ranson, M.D.; Daniel Ellsbury, M.D.; David Coppola, M.D.; Adil Husain,
M.D.; Mary Tjarks, M.D.; and Sarah Cada. M.D., were recognized as advocates
of humanism in medicine.
For Ellsbury, the award affirmed his own work and his attitudes toward
medical practice in general. "I felt honored to receive this award,"
he said. "As a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, I've
seen things from the receiving end of medicine. I have always hoped to
be the kind of physician that I would have wanted for my son, and have
endeavored through teaching to pass these insights on to students. This
award gives me confirmation that I have, to some degree, accomplished these
Ellsbury praised the orientation program as a guide for students making
the difficult third-year transition from the classroom to the clinic. "Bad
habits learned at this stage can quickly become permanent. This program
is an excellent way to guide students through this difficult transition
and direct them on the path to being a good doctor," he said.
The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated
to finding creative and innovative ways of encouraging compassion in medical
practice and research. The UI was one of only five medical colleges across
the country chosen by the foundation to develop a program celebrating the
beginning of students' clinical years.