A renewed focus on humanistic medicine is not unique to the University of Minnesota Medical School; it’s a nationwide trend.
“Medical schools in general are moving to a competency-based admissions process,” says Henry Sondheimer, senior director of student affairs and programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges. “They’re looking for science competencies and personal competencies.”
Sondheimer points to the Arnold P. Gold Foundation as helping to reverse a trend that Gold, a retired physician, found disturbing. Twenty years ago, Gold felt that exciting scientific discoveries and technological advances seemed to be of greater interest to medical students, residents, and fellows than caring for patients. He and his board of trustees asked, “Is it possible to identify candidates for medical school who are both scientifically proficient and compassionate?”
Since then, the Gold Foundation has worked with medical schools to foster humanism in medicine. One of its most widely embraced programs is the White Coat Ceremony, a rite of passage at which first-year medical students recite the Hippocratic Oath or similar statements focused on serving the patient. This ceremony is now practiced at 90 percent of the nation’s medical schools, including the University of Minnesota’s.
The foundation also established the Gold Humanism Honor Society, which honors senior medical students, residents, and role-model physician teachers who demonstrate excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion, and dedication to service.