“It’s not what you look at that matters, but what you see.”
This quote by American writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau sparked reflections from more than 200 medical and nursing students in The Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s 2018 Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest, the first year of the nearly 20-year contest to expand from medical students to include nursing students.
Six thoughtful essays were selected – three written by medical students and three by nursing students. All six will be published in future issues of both Academic Medicine, the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and the Journal of Professional Nursing, the journal of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
The first-place winners were Antoinette Esce, a third-year medical student at University of Rochester, and Ashley Edgar, a first-year nursing student at University of Texas Medical Branch.
“These beautiful essays vividly illustrate the insights gained from looking at the world thoughtfully and considering another person’s perspective,” said Elizabeth Cleek, PsyD, Chief Program Officer at the Gold Foundation. “We are thrilled to be celebrating reflections from both medical and nursing students this year. We hope our new collaboration with the Journal of Professional Nursing and our long-standing partnership with Academic Medicine will offer their readers a glimpse into the insights of future physicians and nurses.”
All essays shared a healthcare experience with a patient or fellow clinician that led to a new, unexpected understanding or perspective. Ashley’s essay, “Seeing Stephen,” chronicles her experience at a major psychiatric hospital during her second clinical rotation, as she grapples with her emotions and has an unexpected encounter.
She writes: “Going over one PowerPoint lecture about therapeutic communication does not necessarily make one prepared to interact with these patients one on one, I thought to myself. It’s one thing to read a textbook and take a test, and another to see these disorders affecting actual people in real life, to look at them face on, eye to eye.”
Antoinette’s essay reflects on a Mennonite family, with a young son battling cystic fibrosis. The essay begins:
“The man was running. One hand on his wide-brimmed black hat, keeping it pressed to his head. His handmade linen pants pressed against his thin legs. His temporary Children’s Hospital ID badge flapping in the wind against his chest. The scene was almost comical; it was dusk and he did not fit among the streetlights and cars and hospital parking lots. I knew this man. But I did not know why he was running.
Perhaps he was running to something. Maybe in search of non-hospital food or a bit of fresh air. Perhaps he was merely stretching his legs, which were otherwise bent in a seat next to a hospital bed. Perhaps he was running away from something. Maybe from the overwhelming hustle and bustle of a complicated life he had chosen to avoid. Or maybe from his child, in the tower behind him, who was slowly dying of cystic fibrosis.”
Here is the full list of winning essayists:
2018 Nursing Student Winners
Ashley Edgar, 1st Year, University of Texas Medical Branch
Read “Seeing Stephen” by Ashley Edgar.
Rachel Sterling, 3rd Year, University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio
Read “Kenny” by Rachel Sterling.
Lucy R. Frank, 4th Year, Duke University
2018 Medical Student Winners
Antoinette Esce, 3rd Year, University of Rochester
Uttara Gadde, 2nd Year, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
Evaline Cheng, 3rd Year, University of California, San Diego
2018 Honorable Mentions
- Carolina de Almagro, 1st Year, Florida International University – Nursing Student
- Sarah Bugg, 3rd Year, University of Kentucky College of Medicine – Medical Student
- Catherine Brannan, 1st Year, University of Colorado – Nursing Student
- Alexa Chavez, 4th Year, Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California – Medical Student
- Lias Cross, 1st Year, University of Massachusetts Lowell – Nursing Student
- Rachel MacLean, 2nd Year, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons – Medical Student
- James Nguyen, 1st Year, Penn State College of Medicine – Medical Student
- Meera Reghunathan, 3rd Year, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine – Medical Student
- Ovini Rodrigo, 3rd Year, Florida Atlantic University Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine – Medical Student
- Regina Thorp, 2nd Year, Uniformed Services University – Nursing Student
More than 35 distinguished judges, drawn from both the medical and the writing professions, read and rated the submissions. Each 1,000-word essay was based on a true story or anecdote that illustrates an experience where the writer or a team member worked to ensure that humanism — compassionate, collaborative, scientifically excellent care — was at the core of healthcare delivery.
The award’s namesake, Hope Babette Tang-Goodwin, MD, was an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. Her devotion and generosity to the care of the children and infants with HIV infection in New York City was an inspiration to her colleagues and her students.
The winners receive a monetary award, beginning with $1,000 for first place. The winning essays will be published in consecutive issues, starting with the third-place winners in the September/October issue of the bi-monthly Journal of Professional Nursing and the October issue of Academic Medicine, a monthly publication.