This Monthly Feature in our journal this month is from the Council on Medical School Education in Pediatrics (COMSEP), and Dr, Plant et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-3042) invite us to think together about humanism. The topic and piece are timed to celebrate and promote humanism, since the month of October has been designated in honor of two revered physicians, Drs. Steve Miller and Richard Sarkin, (pcitured) who served as Travelling Fellows for the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and died tragically in a plane crash in 2004.
I find great inspiration in this article. First, by defining humanism, the authors bring focus to their discussion, and clarity to our practice of medicine. Humanism “…encompasses a spirit of sincere concern for the centrality of human values in every aspect of professional activity…” If I slow down for a moment and think about that definition, it is almost like meditation. Every time I care for a patient, I can practice humanism, and by acknowledging this “centrality,” I am able to feel good about being a doctor, which is not always easy given the intrusion of so many non-medical issues on my daily practice.
Second, I love thinking about what educators can do to continue to practice and teach humanism. It’s certainly easy to achieve “burn out” given the many tasks we must perform that are not in the service of humanism (can any of us tolerate one more required presentation on ICD-10 coding and billing?), and yet it feels remarkably hopeful to learn about behaviors that will help keep us on track, such as self-reflection, seeking a connection with our patients, focusing on our own wellness, and teaching the humanistic approach we practice. I can do those things. It helps me immensely to know that relatively simple behaviors that I can control, which are not dependent on an administrator or a computer or even a colleague, will make a difference.
Third, the practical aspects of teaching humanism might seem daunting, but Dr. Plant and colleagues give us crystal clear examples, in table format no less, of how daily patient interactions are actually teaching opportunities. They call these “embedded strategies,” which emphasize that every aspect of seeing a patient includes multiple windows for learners to deepen their understanding of what it really means to be a physician. This highly pragmatic approach grounds this “teach the teacher” article, and is a consistent and outstanding feature of the COMSEP group’s superb contributions.
And all of this in under 1200 words! Enjoy.
- The Steve Miller Fellowship in Medical Education October 2015 Competition
- Humanism through the Lens of the Academic Pediatric Association