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Medical Students Mark Transition to Clinical Practice

The Student Clinician Ceremony was Designed by the Gold Foundation to Emphasize the Importance of Providing Compassionate Care to Patients

July 11, 2023
Medical students in white coat saying an oath as they lift their right hand and read from a folded paper in an auditorium.

During the ceremony, students and faculty offered their guidance to the members of the Class of 2025. “At the forefront of your daily practice, let not only your medical knowledge and skills but also your empathy guide you. Always remember that a kind word, a gentle touch or a listening ear can often be as important to healing as any medication or procedure,” said Jane Ponterio, M.D. ’81, dean of students. 

“Don't for a second think that as a student, your role is smaller than others. More often than not, you will be the one who has the time to spend with the patients and their friends and family and to track their progress physically, mentally and emotionally from admission to discharge,” said Ashley Sacks, SOM Class of 2024 and co-president of the New York Medical College (NYMC) Chapter of GHHS.

The keynote address at this year’s event was given by Yocheved Lindenbaum, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, who shared her personal experiences regarding the impact of delivering humanistic care. “Truth #1: It is not your job to get your patient a bedpan. Truth #2: It is your job to get your patient a bedpan. Not only can you hold these two truths in your head at the same time, but you can choose which one is right for you,” said Dr. Lindenbaum.

“You can choose truth #1. You can go about your day and be a fine medical student, and then a fine resident and then a fine attending without getting the bedpan. You can evaluate and examine your patients, perform procedures, communicate like a boss, make diagnoses and scientific discoveries and you can choose to not make this part of your job. You can move up and up in your department…. and you can convince yourselves, and those around you (including impressionable medical students) that it is not your job to get anybody any bedpans any day of the week.  Or – you can choose truth #2. You can recognize that treating your patient means giving them what they need, and what they need is not always a diagnosis or a prescription. They may need their water filled up, or a little company or, perhaps, a bedpan. And if you stop to calculate what would happen to the little old lady in the middle of the hallway if she doesn’t get a bedpan, you will realize that getting the bedpan is giving them comfort, averting shame, maintaining their dignity and showing them a glimmer of kindness. The choice is yours.” 

Mill Etienne, M.D. ’02, M.P.H., FAAN, FAES, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, associate dean for student affairs, and Joanna Pessolano, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, led the students in the recitation of the oath, which they had written as a class and initially taken at their white coat ceremony when they began their medical education at NYMC in 2021. 

In her closing remarks, Susan Rachlin, M.D., executive associate dean for student affairs, advised, “No matter where you are in your medical career and how much medical knowledge you have acquired, you always have the ability to provide outstanding humanistic and compassionate care to your patients. In medicine, it is very likely that we will never achieve a 100 percent cure rate. The one thing that we can probably do is achieve a 100 percent compassion rate.”