Announcing the winners of the 2024 Dr. Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is pleased to announce the six winning essays of the 2024 Dr. Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest: the top three by medical students and the top three by nursing students.

First place for medical students is awarded to Caterina Florissi of Harvard Medical School, and first place for nursing students is awarded to Hailey Sommerfeld of the University of Utah College of Nursing.

Second place is awarded to Noor Ahmed of Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and Megan McDowell of Brenau University’s nursing program, and third place goes to Danielle Collins of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Erin Bowdish of The Valley Foundation School of Nursing at San Jose State University.

“This year’s winning essays poignantly convey the experiences of nurses and physicians in training,” said Elizabeth Cleek, PsyD, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of the Gold Foundation. “Each essay tells a unique story, yet they speak to a common truth: We are all better off when compassion is central in healthcare.”

The Dr. Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest — which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year — encourages medical and nursing students to reflect on an experience in which they or a team member worked to ensure humanistic care.

This year, the essay contest prompt was a quote from Sir William Osler, whose writings about the practice of medicine have influenced clinicians for over a century: “The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.”

That spirit resonates in this year’s winning essays. Some pieces allow readers a glimpse of what it means to care for vulnerable patients – a small child with cancer, mothers and babies in the NICU, a man working toward recovery and a life where dreams can come true. Others tell personal stories of loss and resilience. Each essay highlights what it means to keep humanism at the heart of healthcare.

“In my time as a medical student, I have felt deeply grateful to the patients I’ve cared for,” said Ms. Florissi, the first-place medical student winner. “They’ve allowed me to learn both from and alongside them, and I am committed to giving back to those who, in sharing their stories, have in turn shaped my own.”

Ms. Sommerfeld, the first-place nursing student winner, shared, “When you care for people from different backgrounds and situations, there is something that opens you up to learning from them and discovering and seeing the world from other points of view. Working in healthcare offers the unique opportunity to deeply connect with people and feel genuine human connection.”

Each year, the winning essays are chosen by an expert panel that includes healthcare professionals, writers/journalists, and educators. Nearly 500 entries were submitted this year from students at over 80 nursing schools and over 100 medical schools. 2024 marks the seventh year that the contest has included nursing students.

The six essays will be published in two esteemed journals, Academic Medicine, across the October, November, and December issues, and Journal of Professional Nursing, in the September/October, November/December, and January/February issues. Academic Medicine is published by the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Journal of Professional Nursing is published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Both organizations are key supporters of the annual essay contest and partners of the Gold Foundation.

The essay contest is named in memory of Hope Babette Tang, MD, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and the Pediatric Medical Director of the hospital’s HIV clinic until her death in 1998 at age 36. Dr. Tang’s patients were often facing numerous obstacles on top of their devastating medical challenges, which made healing even more difficult. Her mantra in caring for her patients was “Whatever it takes.” Her approach meant she saw the person in front of her, not just their medical situation. Many of her acts of caring only came to be known after her death. She treated the whole patient, a hallmark of humanistic care.

The Gold Foundation congratulates all of this year’s winners and honorable mentions:

2024 Medical/Nursing Student Winners

First Place

“A Drop of a Person”
Caterina Florissi
Harvard Medical School

Caterina Florissi is a rising fourth-year student at Harvard Medical School. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 2018, she spent three years studying the lived experience of illness, both as a researcher surveying individuals with diabetes and as a life story writer for those with dementia.


“Baby J’s Song”
Hailey Sommerfeld
University of Utah College of Nursing

Hailey Sommerfeld is in her final year of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Nurse Midwifery program at the University of Utah. She is a passionate advocate for reproductive rights and hopes to dedicate her career to supporting pregnant individuals whose unique situations may make pregnancy emotionally trying, including those with substance use and mental health disorders, gender diverse individuals, adolescents, and survivors of violence. Her goal is to ensure they have a voice in their care and receive the compassionate, individualized support they need during their pregnancies. She lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and daughter, and enjoys spending time in the mountains, playing rugby, reading thrillers, and learning new hobbies.


Second Place

“Apartment 5 on Dolphin Drive”
Noor Ahmed
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

Noor Ahmed is a second-year medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Previously, she served as a homeless outreach worker in the San Francisco Bay Area. She plans to return to the field as a street psychiatrist. In continuation of her passion for health and social equity, Ms. Ahmed currently serves as a research intern at the Emergency Medicine x Social Determinants of Health Lab at NYU Langone Health. She lives in Pittsburgh with her senior cat (and best friend) Peri.


“The Cat”
Megan McDowell
Brenau University’s nursing program

Megan McDowell is a Doctor of Nursing Practice student enrolled at Brenau University, where she also teaches as an Assistant Professor. Megan worked in Critical Care for 17 years and has now transitioned to the Cardiac Stress Lab. She has been passionate about nursing education and teaching for over a decade, helping students apply theory in the clinical setting. Her doctoral project will focus on educating healthcare workers about human trafficking and using an evidence-based tool to help identify these victims. She enjoys spending time with her husband, three children, and spunky Shih Tzu, Teddy Murphy.


Third Place

 “A Place for Grief”
Danielle Collins
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Danielle Collins is a first-year medical student at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She attended Yale University as a QuestBridge Scholar, where she received a Bachelor of Science for the dual majors of Ethnicity, Race, and Migration and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. At Yale, Danielle was a leader of Students Unite Now, where she advocated for enhanced financial aid and mental health resources for students. Her academic journey also included significant research in ovarian cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. After university, Danielle worked at Boston Children’s Hospital in pediatric cardiology. Now at Hopkins, Danielle is Advocacy Chair of the Student National Medical Student Organization. Her passion for medicine is matched by her love for reading, which fuels continuous growth and joy.


“A Quiet Place”
Erin Bowdish
The Valley Foundation School of Nursing at San Jose State University

Erin Bowdish is a final year nursing student with a special interest in pediatrics. Nursing is a second career for her and she formerly worked in elementary education. During school, she volunteered as a class representative, advocating for peers and collaborating with faculty to enhance the student experience. She is also a Board Member for a local food recovery organization where she identifies and advocates for special populations most in need of food security and necessary goods. She is a California native and lives in the Bay Area with her husband and three children.

Honorable mentions:

Jessica Atkinson, University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Nursing, “Safeguarding Souls”

Jordyn Bailey, University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, “Self-love: A Universal Healer”

Briana Barns, Albany Medical College, “The Checklist”

Sundi Brown, University of Utah College of Nursing, “The Start”

Michael Farid, Weill Cornell Medicine Medical College, “The Attending Who Cuts Hair”

Vanessa Gilbert, Georgia College and State University School of Nursing, “Nurturing Hearts”

Ceili Hamill, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, “GirlofDebra”

Emeline Hood, Penn State College of Medicine, “The Prom”

Jessica Moore, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, “Room 402”

Rachael Muggleton, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, “Curiouser and Curiouser!”

Ego Ofoegbu, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, “Threads of Understanding”

Stacy Bodziak

Director, Communications