On June 20, 2023, The Arnold P. Gold Foundation hosted its Annual Gala, welcoming nearly 400 supporters of humanism in healthcare to the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City. The event brought together a kaleidoscope of dazzling fashion, jubilant energy, and warm celebrations of four extraordinary leaders who have advanced humanistic care throughout the globe.
The gala began with the gorgeous voice of nurse and international recording artist Felicia Temple. With each note, Ms. Temple moved the audience into visible emotion. Humanism is central to her message, as she is both a cancer survivor and registered nurse who went on to work in the ICU during the depths of the Covid-19 crisis. Ms. Temple has shared her talents as a breakthrough contestant on season 12 of The Voice, as well as internationally with Grammy-nominated singer Deborah Cox and the Whitney Houston Hologram Tour. In the height of the pandemic, her rendition of “Rise Up” was played at her hospital, Holy Name Hospital, during every shift change.
The ceremony was hosted by the incomparable Dr. Kimberly Manning, a Gold Trustee and a spectacular national voice for all things humanistic. She brought both levity and profound insights to the evening.
In a moving reminder, Dr. Manning reflected on the power of representation and how it’s reflected in the impressionable eyes of our youth. She noted the honoring of Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Brown as powerful examples of that principle.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Dr. Manning. “We are standing and leading and building and growing, and showing what we can do when we see it. How extraordinary is it that we get to see this all on display tonight.”
The recognition of four individuals with the National Humanism in Medicine Medal was a particular highlight of the evening. This year’s medal honorees were global nursing leader and Dean of the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences at Howard University Dr. Gina S. Brown; visionary physician President and CEO of the Gold Foundation Dr. Richard I. Levin, who will be stepping down this summer after an extraordinary 12-year tenure; national health policy leader, founding Dean and President Emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine, and former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Honorable Dr. Louis W. Sullivan; and pioneering nursing leader and Dean of the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing Dr. Eileen Sullivan-Marx.
Read profiles of the honorees:
- From Georgia to the nation’s capital, The Honorable Dr. Louis Sullivan made a remarkable impact by advocating for humane and equitable care for all
- Gina Spivey-Brown’s tenacity, compassion, and faith drive her leadership and humanistic care around the world
- For Dr. Eileen Sullivan-Marx, nursing has offered endless opportunities to make a difference
- Through warmth, wisdom, and oratory, Dr. Richard I. Levin led The Arnold P. Gold Foundation to new realms
In their acceptance speeches, the honorees offered candor, humor, and deep insights into the complexities of a changing world.
Honoring Dr. Louis W. Sullivan
Gold Foundation Trustees Dr. Jordan J. Cohen and Dr. Wayne J. Riley introduced the Honorable Dr. Sullivan with remarks that captured their decades-long friendship and his great influence. Dr. Cohen has known Dr. Sullivan for 70 years, and Dr. Riley was a medical student at Morehouse College of Medicine, where Dr. Sullivan was the Founding Dean and President.
Dr. Cohen shared the moment when his own life’s calling would be cemented, during Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963.
Dr. Cohen remembered: “Lou could not let that historic moment go by without personally involving himself in some meaningful way. He had a bold initiative in mind. He organized a caravan of 27 busloads of Boston’s finest to go to Washington for that occasion. One of those buses contained a group of residents from Boston City Hospital to set up first aid stations at the event. For me, it was an absolutely life changing event. Looking back, I know that that overpowering March on Washington led me to believe that my lifelong ambition was to keep racial justice in mind. So, I thank you, Lou, for that and for 70 years of enduring friendship.”
For Dr. Riley, mentorship was a key facet of his relationship with Dr. Sullivan.
“I first met this great man when I was a student body president at Morehouse College,” Dr. Riley recalled. “I modeled my career on Louis Wayne Sullivan. On behalf of all of us who were mentored, supported, educated, and motivated through the years to continue to achieve and contribute to the health of America, this award is for you for a life in healthcare well-lived and well-modeled.”
Upon receiving his award, Dr. Sullivan reflected on American values and ideals, and the place for service in our lives. “I’m an individual that believes in the founding principles of this country. If we succeed at achieving those principles, we will be that perfect union that we speak about. This country has many strengths and many noble features. It’s up to each of us to work to address its imperfections. To make sure that things are better because of what we’ve done,” Dr. Sullivan said.
Following the reception, gala attendees were given copies of Dr. Sullivan’s recent book, We’ll Fight It Out Here: A History of the Ongoing Struggle for Health Equity.
Honoring Dr. Gina S. Brown & Dr. Eileen Sullivan-Marx
Dr. Deborah Trautman, President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), followed Dr. Sullivan’s remarks with an introduction of two groundbreaking nurse leaders, Dr. Brown and Dr. Sullivan-Marx.
Dr. Trautman spoke about the unshakable influence of nurses in the healthcare arena. “Nursing professionals have always recognized the importance of compassion — coupled with science — as essential to the care of patients, families, and communities,” said Dr. Trautman. “As indispensable members of the healthcare team, nurses are with patients as they navigate the healthcare system and during some of their most vulnerable moments.”
Dr. Wayne Frederick, President of Howard University, offered congratulatory remarks for Dr. Brown through a video played on the Ziegfeld screens. “Dr. Brown’s career is a testament to what service to others looks like in practice,” he noted. “Her many accomplishments across the globe speak to her brilliance and her love for all of mankind.”
After accepting the National Humanism in Medicine Medal, Dr. Brown offered moving testimony of the power of the nurse-patient relationship in her acceptance remarks.
As a young nurse at D.C. General Hospital in Washington, Dr. Brown remembered a 21-year-old patient named Billy who was healing from a gunshot wound and recovering from addiction. He was a “nothing by mouth” patient, but he repeatedly asked for the taste of an orange with the promise that he would absolutely, definitely not eat it.
Dr. Brown finally gave in and snuck Billy an orange, leaving him to savor the juice for 15 minutes while she tended to other patients. When she returned, the orange was completely gone. Billy had enjoyed every bite.
She became worried that she would lose her nursing position as a result of this decision. When she was confessed the situation to the head nurse, Dr. Brown recalls her saying: “You made a human decision.” (She also advised Dr. Brown to check Billy’s colostomy bag, where the orange eventually showed up.)
Months later, after his hospital stay was over, Billy would make a surprise visit to Dr. Brown’s church in search of her. “The meaning of tonight – this is what it’s all about,” she said in summary. “One better human. One better student. One patient at a time.”
NYU President-Elect Linda Mills introduced Dr. Sullivan-Marx as the evening’s next honoree in another video on the Ziegfeld screens.
“Throughout the formidable challenges of Hurricane Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic, Eileen led with clarity, expertise, and empathy. She strives for excellence in whatever she does,” President-Elect Mills noted. “Eileen doesn’t seek attention, yet she’s always at the forefront of helping to address the most pressing issues of our time.”
Dr. Sullivan-Marx offered positive remarks on the relationship between nurses and doctors. She cautioned against seeing things too negatively and implored doctors to trust in nurses and other members of the healthcare team.
“I wanted to take this moment to be that nurse whispering in my fellow physicians’ ears: You’re doing great. I’m more worried about you than I’m worried about nursing. I need you to feel that sense that you don’t have to carry it all. Let it go. Let the team work with you…” said Dr. Sullivan-Marx. “It’s a team effort.”
Honoring Dr. Richard I. Levin
In the midst of electric emotion in the ballroom, the Weill Cornell Music and Medicine Jazz Ensemble brought their lively sound to a break for dinner. The student group also played at the cocktail hour that kicked off the evening.
After dinner was served, Dr. Joseph Zuckerman, a Gold Trustee and dear friend of Dr. Levin’s, came to the stage. Dr. Zuckerman is the Walter A.L. Thompson Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at NYU Langone Health.
“I’m here because I absolutely love Rich Levin. Our relationship is one that I cherish. It’s meaningful and very important to me,” Dr. Zuckerman said. “His ability to move an organization forward not only within the landscape of medicine but also healthcare is a skill possessed by a precious few… He elevates institutions to levels that had previously not been achieved.”
Dr. Zuckerman introduced two videos: The first spotlighted the accomplishments of the Gold Foundation during Dr. Levin’s tenure and the second shared leaders in healthcare offering congratulations to Dr. Levin as he steps down this summer. Those voices included Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) President & CEO Dr. David J. Skorton, SUNY Downstate University President & CEO Dr. Wayne J. Riley, Dr. Deb Trautman, Inaugural Vilcek-Gold Award recipient Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Chairman of the Board & CEO of Henry Schein, Inc. Stanley Bergman, 2020 AFMC-Gold Humanism in Healthcare Award recipient Dr. Jillian Horton, Chairman Emeritus of the Gold Foundation Dr. Jordan J. Cohen, award-winning actress Judith Light, and incoming President & CEO of the Gold Foundation Dr. Kathleen Reeves.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General and recipient of the 2020 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare, also made a surprise appearance in the video.
“I want to congratulate you on an extraordinary tenure leading the Gold Foundation. I still remember the first time that we met. It was clear to me within minutes of our conversation that for you the Foundation was so much more than a job,” Dr. Murthy recalled. “It was truly a calling, and in your own kindness, your warmth and empathy, you’ve embodied the kind of humanism that we need in medicine, and in the world. Thank you for leading by example. I will always be grateful for you and for your friendship.”
Upon receiving his medal, Dr. Levin thanked the many people and institutions that he has encountered throughout his illustrious career.
“To join this group of co-honorees is so incredibly gratifying. This time with the Gold Foundation has simply been wonderful,” Dr. Levin said. “These 12 years for all of us have encompassed so much change requiring remarkable adaptation.
“Margaret Mead said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world.’ I joined the foundation 25 years after Arnold and Sandra Gold created and introduced our small group. On the shoulders of those giants, we have been able to attract a spectacular team of trustees and staff who impelled us to become an international social movement.”
Dr. Levin also offered a message of hope for the future by introducing his successor as President and CEO of the Gold Foundation, Dr. Kathleen Reeves, who was in attendance. A pioneering leader of humanism in medical education and urban bioethics, Dr. Reeves is poised to build on Dr. Levin’s remarkable 12-year tenure.
The evening’s moving tributes and celebrations of humanism were capped off by a final performance by Ms. Temple. As she tenderly sang “What a Wonderful World,” she reminded the audience that even in these challenging times, there is much beauty to appreciate in the human connection and in the mission that drew them together on this special evening.
This special event and mission were made possible by the support of Presenting Sponsor, The Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, as well as the rest of our Annual Gala Sponsors, Co-Chairs, and Event Committee.