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His friends describe him as stoic and outspoken and if there is a problem – especially mechanical – he can fix it. These are the details Stephen wants his health care team at USA Medical Center to know about his life outside of the hospital.
This week, members of the University of South Alabama College of Medicine Chapter of the Arnold P. Gold Humanism in Medicine Honor Society participated in Solidarity Week, a national initiative designed to remind students and employees of the importance of compassion in medicine.
For the past three years, the “Tell Me More” program has served as the centerpiece of Solidarity Week. Led by GHHS members, the goal of “Tell Me More” is to engage patients in conversations that focus on important aspects of their lives rather than their illness. After obtaining consent, medical students asked patients to tell them unique information about themselves, which they used to craft posters and display above their beds.
Students also distributed Mari Gras beads to patients in celebration of Mardi Gras, which originated in Mobile, Ala.
Hilda Watkins, a third-year student at the USA College of Medicine and GHHS chapter member, said Stephen’s eyes lit up as she entered the room with the poster. Watkins handed Stephen and his wife, Cathy, Mardi Gras beads before hanging his poster above the bed.
According to Cathy, the compassionate care they have received at USA Medical Center is unmatched. “We have received an abundance of kindness here and I think we were spoiled,” she said. “The poster is great. Since we were here during Mardi Gras we weren’t able to attend any parades, so the beads were the perfect treat.”
Watkins said the “Tell Me More” program fosters relationships and provides the opportunity to relate to patients in ways other than their clinical diagnoses. “They were very willing to answer the questions and let me learn more about them,” she said. “Despite the hardships the patient and his wife have experienced, they were very thankful and smiled the entire time."
Alexander Wiles, a fourth-year student at the USA College of Medicine and GHHS chapter president for the Class of 2018, said Solidarity Week is fun for patients and medical students alike. “Solidarity Week allows GHHS students to interact and get to know each other better,” he said. “We hear amazing stories about patients’ lives, and ‘Tell Me More’ is a great way to encourage our providers to remain engaged in the humanistic side of patient care. I love seeing the happiness we bring patients by learning more about them.”
Jonathon Whitehead, a third-year student at the USA College of Medicine and GHHS member, had the opportunity to learn more about Ariel, a pediatric patient at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital. “Ariel has a big heart for dogs and cats,” he said. “I tried my best to draw a few animals on her poster to make it special for her.”
Ariel and her grandmother admired her poster as Whitehead taped it to the wall. “It’s perfect. I wouldn’t add anything else,” she said. “I’m going to show it to everyone as they come in the room, and I want to frame it when I get home.”
“Practicing medicine is not just addressing the patient’s physical ailments,” said Christel Bowman, a third-year student at the USA College of Medicine and GHHS chapter member. “Sometimes a patient needs encouragement, advice or just a hand to hold. By being compassionate, we help them heal.”
While visiting patients, GHHS members distributed snacks to each nurse’s station to express their appreciation. They also hung a banner in the lobby of the Medical Sciences Building to motivate and encourage the second-year students as they prepare to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 – the first of three licensure exams that assess their ability to apply knowledge, concepts and principles, and to demonstrate fundamental patient-centered skills.
“This project impacted me personally, and I did not realize what an impact a simple ‘thank you’ can have,” Bowman said. “When we delivered goodie baskets to different departments, we were met with smiles, hugs and appreciation.”
Click here to view more photos from Solidarity Week at USA.
To learn more about Solidarity Week, click here. Share your own posts and photos using the hashtag #SolidarityWeek.
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