Saint Barnabas Medical Center Pioneers New Program Bringing Humanities and Humanism to Medicine

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 General News
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LIVINGSTON, N.J., Dec. 1 What do poetry, art, literature,film and history have to do with medical practice? "Everything," according toRichard S. Panush, M.D., Chair of Medicine at Saint Barnabas Medical Center,who has pioneered an innovative program bringing humanities to the bedside forresidents in internal medicine.

"Studying the humanities helps us restore the 'soul' of medicine,"explains Dr. Panush, who is a leader among a growing group of physicians andmedical educators who are embracing the importance of including humanitieseducation in the curriculum of medical students and residents as a means toenhance humanism, trust, empathy and compassion.

The Internal Medicine Residency program at Saint Barnabas Medical Centeris among an elite group of 21 internal medicine residency programs selectedout of 388 nationwide, to participate in the Educational Innovations Project(EIP), a challenge set forth by the Accreditation Council for Graduate MedicalEducation (ACGME), the national organization responsible for accreditingresidency training programs. In its call for proposals, the ACGME was seekinginnovations to integrate improvements in medical education with improvementsin quality and safety of patient care, noting that they are inextricablylinked. The program was established in part with funds from the Harvey E.Nussbaum, MD, Research Institute of Saint Barnabas Medical Center and SaintBarnabas Medical Center. Funding has also been received from the SaintBarnabas Medical Center Community Advocates and the Somville-Tilling Fund. InOctober, The Health Care Foundation of New Jersey committed philanthropicsupport for this program. The program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center is theonly one selected that focuses on humanities and humanism in medicine.Ultimately this project, along with the other selected innovation projects,may help to rewrite the future of medical education and patient care for thenext generation of physicians.

Dr. Panush speaks empathically about the importance of incorporatinghumanities into the education and training of young physicians, explainingthat our society needs not only skilled clinicians but also medicalhumanitarians. "We need to go back to the roots of medicine which wasepitomized by people who were passionately humanistic," he explains. "Bystudying the humanities we can uncover what it means to be a patient andrestore this to our noble profession -- training better doctors, learningbetter the art of medicine and offering better care to the sick."

Through daily rounds and weekly multidisciplinary conferences, residentsand faculty have an opportunity to examine an article, poem, piece ofliterature or artwork that stimulates discussion on humanistic patient care.The selections are often provocative, designed to give a deeper perspective onpatient care. "I enjoyed every session -- every article, poem, painting andpiece of literature," commented third-year resident Dilprit Bagga, M.D., Ph.D."The educational experience was extraordinary. The door of humanity educationis opened for me now."

In its first year the program has already had a transformative effect onresident education, significantly improving measures of attitudes andpractices of physicians and patient care outcomes. Core faculty members,Ashish Parikh, M.D., Sunil Sapru, M.D., Anthony Carlino, M.D., and MindyHoung, M.D., aided by project coordinator M. Martha Eid, and specialconsultant/collaborator Paul Wangenheim, M.D., have embraced the challenge ofenriching the curriculum while also developing tools to assess theeffectiveness of the program for both resident performance and patient careoutcomes. Residents have responded enthusiastically, describing the humanitiescurriculum as a "refreshing addition to resident training" that serves as adaily reminder that they are treating patients and not just illness. "Thesesessions are an important reminder to us every day that our patients are'humans' and not just another chart," said third-year resident Xu Wang, M.D.,Ph.D.

As the program embarks on its second year this fall, Dr. Panush isencouraged by the impact the program has had at Saint Barnabas Medical Centerand in the broader medical community. "I hope people are rediscovering what19th century physician William Osler, known as the Father of Modern Medicine,said when he described the practice of medicine as being an art based onscience. This understanding is fundamental to clinical medicine. We areexcited and proud to be at the forefront of putting this into action in ourresidency training program."

Ramesh Guthikonda, M.D., a second-year resident, captured the core of theprogram's goals and accomplishments: "The EIP (humanities program) is like afresh, cool breeze on a hot humid day and a new wave of thought processes ofhow to modify oneself to be a better doctor and, ultimately, a better humanbeing. I feel lucky to be part of the process from the beginning."

Since 1865, Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC), located at 94 Old ShortHills Road in Livingston, is New Jersey's oldest nonprofit, nonsectarianhospital. The 597-bed institution is one of the largest heath care providersin the state, treating more than 37,000 inpatients and over 75,000 EmergencyDepartment patients each year. The Medical Center and the Saint BarnabasAmbulatory Care Center provide treatment and services for more than 300,000outpatient visits annually.

SBMC is ranked among the top five percent of hospitals in the country forOverall Clinical Performance by HealthGrades and is the recipient of theHealthGrades 2008 and 2007 Distinguished Hospital Award for ClinicalExcellence(TM) and the 2007 and 2008 HealthGrades Excellence Award(TM) inCardiac Care, Bariatric Surgery, Maternity Care, and Women's Health. SBMC wasalso chosen as the best hospital in New Jersey and the 13th best hospital inthe United States by AARP Modern Maturity magazine. For more information onSaint Barnabas Medical Center, please visit and select SaintBarnabas Medical Center from the facilities list or call l-888-SBHS-123.

SOURCE Saint Barnabas Medical Center

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