In the eyes of a patient, sympathy and compassion can make a good doctor great. Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor of clinical medicine and infectious diseases expert, is epitomizing this as the 2011 Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award winner, being given to him on May 22 during the annual Honors Day Program.
This distinction, presented by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, is awarded annually to one faculty member and one graduating medical student at 85 medical schools nationally and recognizes the value of humanism in the delivery of care to patients and their families.
"I am honored to be recognized by my colleagues, but I do not view my approach to medicine as particularly unique,” says Fichtenbaum.
Keith Luckett, MD, an adjunct professor of medicine who nominated Fichtenbaum for the award, feels differently.
"Dr. Fichtenbaum has dedicated his professional career to improving the lives of patients, training young investigators, educating the community and developing new knowledge to advance our understanding in the field of HIV-related research,” he wrote in his nomination letter to the Gold Foundation.
"He is a passionate advocate for the health and well-being of his patients and the greater community.” Andrew Filak Jr., MD, interim dean of the College of Medicine, says this honor is extremely well deserved.
"[Carl] is a tremendous role model for the students and residents and epitomizes the compassionate care that we should all strive to provide,” he says.
Fichtenbaum says he was inspired by many outstanding physicians at UC, who taught him about caring for the patient—mind, body and soul.
"I've had a number of important mentors that I have considered outstanding healers and physicians, including Peter Frame, Russ Little and Morris Wessel, to name a few,” he says.
"The quality I valued the most in these physicians was their ability to treat each person in a caring, compassionate and humane manner."
This award is shared with them and the patients who help me become a better person every day.” The Gold Foundation began this award in 1991 at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.
The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey began replicating these awards nationwide in 1998, with participation from the foundation. In 2003, with a donation from Leonard Tow, these awards became solely sponsored and administered by the Gold Foundation.
Along with a $1,000 prize, as part of the award Fichtenbaum will be the keynote speaker at the Student Clinician Dinner on June 28 at the Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center, at the White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 12 at Music Hall, and at the Gold Humanism Honor Society Induction Ceremony in March 2012.
Laura Pareso is a fourth-year medical student at UC. Pareso, who is a member of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, previously received the UC Spirit of the Community Award for her coordination of a medical mission trip to Mexico through the Christian Medical Association, was an intern at the Health Resource Center for Urban Health Project and was a mentor for UC Med Mentors through the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative.
Pareso, who is currently serving in the Should-to-Shoulder program, an international organization that uses primary health care, nursing services, public health, dental care, nutrition and education to improve health outcomes in poor communities, wrote in her Humanism in Medicine essay,
"If we do not remember to step back, empathize with our patients, have open, non-judgmental communication and show compassion through our actions, we lose the art of medicine and the ability to comfort patients.”