Announcing the winners of the 2023 Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is pleased to announce the six winning essays of the 2023 Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest: the top three by medical students and the top three by nursing students.

First place is awarded to Federico Erhart of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Courtney Polimeni of Washington State University College of Nursing.

Second place is awarded to Riley Plett of the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine and Leah Rothchild of the MGH Institute of Health Professions School of Nursing, and third place goes to Emily Otiso of Wayne State University School of Medicine and Nicole Diddi of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas School of Nursing.

This year’s winning essays tell stories about the power of human connection. They bring the reader into clinics, hospital rooms, and ERs, revealing delicate exchanges between caregivers and patients. They explore how kindness can transcend our differences, and how the smallest of gestures can mean everything in a difficult moment.

“This year’s winning essays are beautiful reflections on our shared humanity,” said Elizabeth Cleek, PsyD, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Gold Foundation. “I am deeply impressed by the winners, not only for their talent on the page, but as clinicians in training who exemplify heart and compassion.”

The winning essays are chosen by an expert panel that includes healthcare professionals, writers/journalists, and educators. More than 530 entries were submitted this year from students at over 90 nursing schools and over 110 medical schools. 2023 marks the sixth year that the contest has included nursing students.

The Gold Foundation has been continuously expanding its programs from its U.S. roots to a global reach, and it is noteworthy that — for the first time — a Canadian student was among the essay winners this year.

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.

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 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. Poet Laureate Ada Limón in her poem “How Far Away We Are”:

“I want to give you something, or I want to take something from you. But I want to feel the exchange, the warm hand on the shoulder, the song coming out and the ear holding onto it.”

Ada Limón is the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States. She is the author of six books of poetry, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and was the second host of the critically acclaimed poetry podcast The Slowdown. When announcing her appointment as Poet Laureate in 2022, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden noted that Ms. Limón’s poems “speak of intimate truths, of the beauty and heartbreak that is living, in ways that help us move forward.”

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

2023 Medical/Nursing Student Winners

First Place

“The Nail Salon”
Federico Erhart
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Federico Erhart is a third-year medical student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Originally from Argentina, he spent over a decade working in marketing communications across Latin America and the U.S. He obtained a BS in Biology from Miami Dade College in 2019 and is currently pursuing a dual MD/MPH degree, with plans to apply to a residency in Psychiatry later this year. He lives close to Homestead, Florida, with his wife and kids.


“The Window”
Courtney Polimeni
Washington State University College of Nursing

Courtney Polimeni is a Doctor of Nursing Practice student currently enrolled in the Family Nurse Practitioner program at Washington State University. Originally from Rochester, New York, she began her nursing career at the University of Rochester Medical Center at Strong Memorial Hospital working in the Kessler Burn/Trauma ICU. Outside of healthcare, Ms. Polimeni is an avid fly fisher, runner, and bow hunter. She will be applying to accredited ARNP residency programs upon graduation next May and hopes to pursue a career in formal nursing education as a professor.


Second Place

“I See You”
Riley Plett
University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine

Riley Plett is a Saulteaux Métis Anishinaabek with Indigenous and settler ancestry. She is a proud band member of Pine Creek First Nation. She was raised in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, and lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Ms. Plett completed her Master’s of Pharmacology at the University of Saskatchewan and is now in her third year of medical school at the University of Saskatchewan. She aspires to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist.


“The Unspoken Language of Compassion”
Leah Rothchild
MGH Institute of Health Professions School of Nursing

Leah Rothchild is in her final year of a direct-entry MSN program at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston. After graduation, she hopes to work in pediatric primary care or in a developmental follow-up clinic for premature infants as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Ms. Rothchild currently works as a pediatric home health nurse for medically complex children and as a registered nurse at an adult inpatient substance use treatment facility. She is passionate about raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental health diagnoses, offering holistic care that treats people rather than illnesses, and providing culturally sensitive care in global health settings. She is currently preparing for a nurse education trip in Malawi, and she plans to continue engaging in global health throughout her career. Ms. Rothchild lives in New Hampshire where she enjoys spending time with her 5-year-old daughter, cooking, hiking, and reading.


Third Place

“The Gift of Grief”
Emily Otiso
Wayne State University School of Medicine

Emily Otiso is a fourth-year medical student at Wayne State University School of Medicine. She is passionate about advancing social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion in medicine and medical education. Ms. Otiso plans on pursuing a career in academic Emergency Medicine and hopes to work in institutions serving urban underserved communities.


“The Momentum of Human Kindness”
Nicole Diddi
University of Nevada at Las Vegas

Nicole Diddi was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. She attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In the decade since graduation, she has worked in several capacities as a registered nurse in Las Vegas and currently works as a perioperative nurse. She is again a student at UNLV and is on track to graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing in 2024. She hopes to use her degree to inspire future nurses to fall in love with the art of nursing and develop a passion for providing compassionate, evidenced-based care to patients. Outside of nursing, she prioritizes spending time with family and friends and enjoys playing the piano, drawing landscapes, studying philosophy, and reading poetry.


Honorable mentions:

Bradley Firchow, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, “Kneeling Before the Patient: Medicine’s Spirit”

Florita Flores, University of St. Francis-Leach College of Nursing, “My Mission, My Vision, My Story”

Rebekkah  Harper, Baker College Owosso School of Nursing, “Humanism at its Core During Covid”

Priya Nair, Albany Medical College, “Fridays are For a Fresh Start”

Jacqueline Owen, University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, “My Unexpected Journey to Addiction Medicine”

Isabel Plakas, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, “Raining Toads and Snakes”

Maya Sorini, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, “Working Dogs”

Sarah Steffen, Medical College of Wisconsin, “The Soundtrack of Life”

Kimberly Stewart, Ursuline College Breen School of Nursing, “They Gave Themselves”

Tara Tronetti, Drexel University College of Medicine, “Sorry for the mess!”

Bailey Willard, Winona State University-Nursing, “The Very Exchange We Need”