How can medical students support each other in becoming humanistic physicians?

We recently asked our medical student bloggers How can medical students support each other as they go through the challenging task of becoming a physician?  How can you help each other to promote your humanistic beliefs in patient care?   Here are their answers:

Jana Christian

Jana Christian,  Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
“The best way students can support each other in maintaining humanistic beliefs is to assist and encourage each other to PRACTICE and HONE these skills.  Although medical students are all incredibly conscientious, well-intentioned, and compassionate, promoting humanistic beliefs still takes practice as we encounter new challenges.  How do you address an angered family member who begins yelling in the middle of a hospital floor?  How do you attend to someone who has just received a cancer diagnosis?  These difficult dilemmas involve many skills – problem-solving, communication, and empathy.  If we practice among our peers, we can begin to ingrain in our responses the desire to act in a humanistic way.”

J. Chika Morah, University of Toledo College of Medicine in OhioJay Chika Morah
“At my school, every class has a Facebook support page where we post study guides, videos, social event invitations, and funny jokes to ease the stress. In order to promote humanistic beliefs, we must remember that the clinical skills classes are very important, because this is where we master patient interaction skills. We also have to hold each other accountable when making decisions, even if the wrong decision seems easier. Finally, sharing stories of positive patient encounters, humanism, and empathy can really help to encourage and inspire fellow classmates to make a difference in the lives of others. ​”

Eduardo Salazar

Eduardo Salazar, The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix
“Fellow students are an invaluable resource as we progress through our medical training. Although each student brings a unique set of challenges outside of medical school, we each understand the demands of our career path and education. UACOM-P’s admissions office puts tremendous effort in using current students to welcome incoming applicants and students onto our campus, and I believe that it allows us to understand each other early on as academic peers as well as human beings. Because we develop an understanding of each other, we feel safe discussing our beliefs and encourage each other to do so.”


Natalie Sous, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
Recently fourth year students from the Gold Humanism Honor Society spoke to our class about the challenges they faced during clinical rotations. They talked about how it was possible to lose sight of humanism during the last hour of a shift, or when an exam was coming up, or after a particularly difficult day. I found their presentation very compelling because they openly discussed their weakest moments in order to talk about strategies for bringing humanism back into focus. Through honest discussions like these, students are reminded that they are not alone, and can help one another maintain compassion throughout their training.”

Natalie Strokes

Natalie Strokes, A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona
“Support begins with the environment of the medical school. From the start, my school has emphasized collaboration among students. We share study guides, de-stress with class-wide bonfires after exams, and give each other feedback on better ways to communicate. We are also taught to ask every standardized patient about their social determinants of health, which includes questions about their safety, home environment and whether they can fill a prescription. The school hosts open panels on topics such as transgender healthcare, smoking, religious beliefs, and teen health. This open environment where we can ask questions and receive feedback reinforces our humanistic beliefs and helps us learn how to earn our patients’ trust.”

Evan TorlineUniversity of Louisville School of Medicine in KentuckyEvan Torline

“I think you best support your classmates by making sure you are getting enough sleep, eating a regular diet, and getting some form of exercise. This goes a long way in how you feel about yourself and how you interact with others. It’s also important to take a genuine interest in people who are around you every day. Have you asked your peers how their weekend went? Have you had an opportunity to share something about yourself with them? Be a sharer of your time, of your emotions (to a certain extent), and your knowledge. Some may not know the joy of a life shared with others, but what better person than you to reach out and give them an example of what a humanistic person can do?​”

Other questions our medical student bloggers have answered: