Announcing the winners of the 2022 Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is pleased to announce the six winners of the 2022 Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest: three by medical students and three by nursing students. First place is awarded to Mason Blacker of the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and nursing student Jessica Pierce of the Oregon Health & Science University.

Second place is awarded to Molly Fessler of the University of Michigan Medical School and Victoria Furka of University of Tennessee-Knoxville College of Nursing, and third place goes to Nali Gillespie of Duke University School of Medicine and Danielle Blackwell of Frontier Nursing University.

This year’s winning essays all tell the story of the moments that take us back to our own humanity. They include being forever changed by that one patient that came before all the others; honoring a patient’s call for a song to lay her to rest in dignity; witnessing a wife and mother’s eternal love and sacrifice for a dying husband and a family soon to be forever changed; transcending the dividing lines of war and conflict to see the person in a patient from the opposing side.

“These poignant essays tell an important truth about the delicate, healing power of the human connection,” said Elizabeth Cleek, PsyD, Chief Operating Officer of the Gold Foundation. “In reading the writing of these inspiring and talented clinicians in training, I am more and more confident in healthcare’s ability to meet its promises with strength, and heart.”

The winning essays are chosen by an expert panel that includes healthcare professionals, writers/journalists, and educators. The judges selected the winners out of more than 400 entries from over 40 nursing schools and over 120 medical schools.

The winning essays will be published in two esteemed journals, Academic Medicine, in 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. 2022 marks the fifth year that the contest has included nursing students.

The Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest prompts medical and nursing students to engage in a reflective writing exercise that illustrates an experience in which they or a team member worked to ensure humanistic care.

This year, students were prompted to share stories inspired by a quote from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in his book Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World:

“Creating a connected life begins with the decisions we make in our day-to-day lives. Do we choose to make time for people? Do we show up as our true selves? Do we seek out others with kindness, recognizing the power of service to bring us together?”

Dr. Vivek Murthy is the 19th and 21st Surgeon General of the United States. He is an immigrant born in the United Kingdom to parents of Indian descent, who emigrated to the United States by way of Nova Scotia. He received the 2020 Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare for his multi-faceted approach to addressing the opioid crisis in the United States, and for his continued advocacy and support of human- and community-centered care.

The essay contest is named for Hope Babette Tang-Goodwin, MD, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, whose 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. Her approach to medicine combined a seemingly limitless enthusiasm for her work, intellectual rigor and deep compassion for her patients.

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

2022 Medical/Nursing Student Winners

First Place

“The Light”
Mason Blacker
NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Mason Blacker is a medical student at NYU Grossman School of Medicine about to start his second year. He is also enrolled in the three-year pathway for neurosurgery. Prior to medical school, Mr. Blacker served for 12 years in the United States Navy.


“As the Sun Sets”
Jessica Pierce
Oregon Health & Science University

Jessica Pierce worked for four years as a cardiac ICU nurse in Nevada before pursuing her doctoral degree in Nurse Anesthesia at Oregon Health & Science University. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and her grey cat, Smokey. They enjoy hiking, camping, and trips to the coast.


Second Place

“Every Patient After”
Molly Fessler
University of Michigan Medical School

Molly Fessler is a rising fourth-year student at the University of Michigan Medical School. She studied sociology and peace studies at Bryn Mawr College before serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize from 2014 to 2016. Ms. Fessler is the Co-founder of Auxocardia Journal, a creative space for health professional students, and serves on the board of Wolverine Street Medicine, leading foot care efforts for persons experiencing homelessness. She is a 2022-2023 Albert Schweitzer Fellow in the Detroit cohort and a proud member of the Gold Humanism Honor Society.


“A Song for the Dying”
Victoria Furka
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Nursing

Victoria Furka is originally from High Bridge, New Jersey. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she studied biology and chemistry and graduated as valedictorian. After various mission trips to Cambodia, India, and Tanzania throughout her college career, Ms. Furka found a passion for the nursing field and decided to go back to school to pursue nursing. Consequently, she just graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with her bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and has accepted a job as an RN in a cardiovascular ICU in Louisiana.

Third Place

“To Tend to a Life Story”
Nali Gillespie
Duke University School of Medicine

Nali Julia Gillespie is an internal medicine/pediatrics resident at Louisiana State University-NOLA. She graduated from Duke University School of Medicine in 2022 and completed her BA at Duke, as well (on the intersection of health and conflict in the Middle East). In her spare time, Dr. Gillespie enjoys poetry, pottery, gardening, imagining a better world, and spending time with her pet hedgehog, Thistle.


“She Served Him Well”
Danielle Blackwell
Frontier Nursing University

Danielle Blackwell is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Student with 11 years as a Registered Nurse. Mrs. Blackwell started her career on a mother-baby hospital unit continuing onto a medical surgical unit, but finding her way back to mother-baby due to her passion for women’s health. She has happily served as an active-duty military spouse for 16 years, moving seven times, including one overseas tour. Mrs. Blackwell is fiercely supportive of her loving husband, the Army, and their three elementary-aged daughters, who are the light of her life. She is excited to be used by God and serve women. Danielle enjoys weight lifting and HIIT training, cooking plant-focused meals, listening to live music and dancing alongside, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.


2022 Honorable Mentions

Audrey Burnette, Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, “Little Acts of Kindness”

Alexandra DeFelice, University of Virginia School of Medicine, “To Miss”

Kiera Downes-Vogel, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, “Our Hearts Still Bleed”

Samantha Fine, Texas A&M College of Medicine, “Sutures and Sinatra”

Bilal Karim, Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, “Lost in Translation”

Varun Mehta, George Washington School of Medicine and the Health Sciences, “Ray”

Haley Shanks, The University of Kentucky College of Medicine, “On Down the Hall”

Melia Takakusagi, University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine, “With Regret”

Mikayla Vlach, Kent State University Geauga College of Nursing, “For Better or For Worse”

Waylon Whitley, University of California San Diego School of Medicine, “An Unlikely Prescription”

Nicole  Wong,  David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, “Underneath a Diagnosis”

Irene Zampetoulas, MPA

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