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SOM Hosts Virtual GHHS Student Clinician Ceremony

The Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) ceremony marks the transition from being pre-clinical medical students to students who are engaged in full direct patient contact.

July 06, 2020
Ray T. Whitt, M.D. Headshot
Ray T. Whitt, M.D.

The ceremony was emceed by GHHS member, Cydney Nichols, SOM Class of 2021, who offered her perspective to the rising members of the Class of 2022, as they prepared to embark on this next phase in their education—validating their feelings and assuring them they will be an asset to a medical team.

Jerry L. Nadler, M.D., MACP, FAHA, FACE, dean of the School of Medicine and professor of medicine and pharmacology, opened the ceremony with a moment of silence in solidarity and memory of the black lives who were tragically killed. “We are all living through a key moment of our history. The future is in your hands. You can change things for the better. Please go forth and make this a better world,” said Dr. Nadler.

“The ceremony underscores, particularly during this difficult time in medicine, the challenges and imperatives to providing compassionate patient care at a time when you are pressed to demonstrate high standards of skilled performance,” said Jennifer L. Koestler, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and associate professor of pediatrics and medicine, who serves as the GHHS faculty advisor.  

The GHHS Student Clinician Ceremony was also an opportunity to recognize six residents for their exceptional teaching skills and commitment to the compassionate treatment of patients and families, students and colleagues, chosen by the outgoing third-year class. This year’s Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Awards were presented to: Paul Cristofano, M.D., psychiatry, Westchester Medical Center; Michael Liou, M.D., psychiatry, NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan; Aaron Grubner, M.D., pediatrics, Maria Fareri Children's Hospital; Joshua Hanau, M.D., pediatrics, Maria Fareri Children's Hospital; Moutaz Ghrewati, M.D., internal medicine, St. Joseph’s Health; Maria Clara Lorca, M.D., surgery/radiology, Westchester Medical Center.

The resident honorees sent their well wishes and words of wisdom to the Class of 2022 via video. “Remember you have the capacity to affect the way every single patient experiences pain, fear and anxiety of being in the hospital. That is why it is so important to connect with them and give them our time and respect, even in a chaotic environment,” offered Dr. Lorca.

The keynote address to the Class of 2022 was presented by Ray T. Whitt, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and SOM house advisory dean, who shared some of his experiences in his first clinical rotations as a medical student and reinforced to the students that they are well prepared for this next step in their journeys to becoming physicians. He offered these tips: 1) refresh what you learned in anatomy 2) show enthusiasm 3) keep an open mind about the different specialties 4) appreciate this chance to spend more time with patients 5) take advantage of all the opportunities for interprofessional collaboration and 6) don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Dr. Whitt also shared his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan and addressed the issue of racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. “We have all been faced with challenges and will be faced with challenges as the year goes on. We will work together to get through this,” said Dr. Whitt. “While your nose and mouth will be covered, your eyes and ears must be open. Don’t be blind to the inequities you see and the injustices you hear. Get involved and be a force for change.”

Jane M. Ponterio, M.D. '81, senior associate dean for student affairs for the SOM offered her advice to students as well which included 1) be curious and prepared 2) be kind and do the right thing, not the easy thing 3) be reliable 4) eat good food. “Each patient is a learning opportunity for you. But more importantly—each patient is waiting for the moment when you walk into their room to ask you their questions, to share their concerns or to introduce you to their family,” said Dr. Ponterio. “Each deserves good care. Each deserves a good doctor.”

A video montage showed the Class of 2022 taking the student oath to acknowledge the responsibilities of the medical profession and their willingness to assume such obligations. The ceremony was also interspersed with active polls so students could share their answers to questions such as “What is one thing you are nervous about for next year?, “How will you take care of yourself during the third year?” and “What is the one thing you are excited about for next year?,” creating a sense of camaraderie.

Closing the ceremony was Solomon Ajasin, SOM Class of 2021 and a member of GHHS, advising the Class of 2022, “I implore you to consider what humanism means to you. For me, being humanistic is to assist my patients and everyone around me, whichever way enriches their lives and helps them conquer the weaknesses inherent in being human, either psychological, physical or emotional. The goal is simple—to focus, hyperfocus, on the human factor."