The 2024 Gold Humanism Summit draws nearly 400 people to Atlanta

National Gold Foundation conference focused on “The Person in Front of You” with dynamic speakers, insightful sessions and discussions, surprise marching band, interactive drumming, Art Gallery, Poster Hall, Hackathon, and much more

“It’s good to come to a place where there are role models and outstanding mentors and to be in an environment with hundreds of like-minded others, a place of new ideas and exciting speakers. It boosts my spirit to be here, and I hope it boosts yours.” – Dr. Sandra Gold, Co-Founder and Trustee

Gold Foundation President and CEO Dr. Kathleen Reeves welcomed the Gold community to kick off the Summit on Thursday, February 29, 2024.

The 2024 Gold Humanism Summit: The Person in Front of You drew nearly 400 advocates of humanistic care from across the nation, Puerto Rico, Lebanon, and Canada.

The gathering at the Hilton Atlanta, Feb. 29 to March 2, included an Art Gallery, Hackathon, Poster Session, 70 fascinating panels and sessions, inspiring keynote speakers, and much more. The conference highlighted perspectives from doctors, nurses, students, Gold Humanism Honor Society members, patients, families, corporate leaders, social workers, and pharmacists. They came together to forge new relationships, find community, and share strategies on how to connect with the person in front of you.

Mr. Josh Robinson

Professional percussionist and drum facilitator Josh Robinson kicked off the Summit by leading attendees in a rhythmic display of connection. Strangers became musical partners, as they hit their drumsticks against one another’s, picking up speed to the sound of the beat and connecting in a non-verbal way. The musical magic peaked as the back doors of the conference hall opened, and the New Manchester High School Jaguars Marching Band entered, decked out in red and white, playing gleaming tubas, trumpets, saxophones, and more, brought everyone to their feet.

The New Manchester High School Jaguars Marching Band

“The vibrations and connections bring us together,” said Mr. Robinson, artist-in-residence in the Jefferson Humanities & Health program at Thomas Jefferson University.

In her opening remarks to welcome attendees, Gold President and CEO Dr. Kathleen Reeves spoke of seizing the moment. The research shows that humanism improves healthcare for both patients and clinicians; it’s now up to us to act, she emphasized.

For Dr. Reeves, the marching band did more than dazzle the room. The band changed the atmosphere with a feeling of human connection.

“I am sure we all felt it — that was connection. I don’t care what language you speak. I don’t care if you can read. I don’t care if you understand what I’m saying. It was connection,” Dr. Reeves said. “And that’s what medicine is. Medicine is connecting. It doesn’t work unless we connect.”


Forging new connections, face to face

The event was the first-in person conference since 2019. “Gathering together in person is important,” said Gold Trustee Dr. Sandra Gold, who co-founded the Gold Foundation 35 years ago with her late husband, Arnold.

With her signature red hat, she was a magnetic force, attracting students and clinicians of all ages for photos and hugs.

Dr. Reeves raised the common instruction to medical students: Start a patient visit by asking about their Chief Complaint. “What if we did something else? What if the CC stood for something else? What if the first thing we asked students to do was Create Connection?”

That initial connection — perhaps by acknowledging the challenges of getting to the appointment or talking about a shared interest — can help build trust and create a better foundation for both patient care and clinician well-being.

Gold Trustee and co-founder Dr. Sandra Gold

Dr. Wes Ely, a critical-care pulmonologist, Vanderbilt Professor, and a Summit keynote speaker, shared that he asks his patients four questions to spark connection: (1) What are your hobbies? (2) What are your pets’ names (3) What is your favorite food? (4) What is your favorite music?

Dr. Florencia Polite, Professor and Vice-Chair of Clinical Operations in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Perelman School of Medicine – University of Pennsylvania, gave a stirring talk about centering the patient.

“My charge to you all is to re-center the female patient in these encounters,” said Dr. Polite. “We have to make a way to say if I had a female patient in front of me, how do I make this encounter better, easier for her? How do I make it safer for her? How do I provide that level of compassionate care?”

Dr. Ruby Mendenhall

Dr. Ruby Mendenhall, Kathryn Lee Baynes Dallenbach Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Associate Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and the 2021 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award honoree, gave a keynote address with Dr. Reeves: “The Community Ecosystem: Caring for the Person in Front of You by Understanding their Story.” The theme of connecting emerged once more while the two shared stories of working with communities in Illinois and in Philadelphia.

Gold Foundation President and CEO Dr. Kathleen Reeves pictured with    Dr. Pedro “Joe” Greer, Jr.

Dr. Pedro “Joe” Greer, Jr., a Gold Trustee and the Founding Dean of the Roseman University College of Medicine in Las Vegas, Nevada, was joined by Dr. Reeves for the Goldman Plenary titled, “A Conversation Between Kathy & Joe: Where is Humanism in Medical Education?”

Dr. Greer addressed the need to create a medical education curriculum of the community.

“With a community-based curriculum, we are not a community-engaged school. You can only be engaged for so long, eventually you have to get married. We are community dependents. I depend on the community to educate our students,” he explained.

Bringing changemakers together

In addition to the plenaries, over 40 interactive breakout sessions drew on the conference themes of humanism in action, humanities, communication and connection, technology, a global approach to wellbeing, building and rebuilding trust, mentorship, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Here are just a few highlights from the Summit’s breakout sessions:

“Cool Tempers on Hot Topics: Using Humanism to Navigate Controversy in Medicine” included a panel discussion by health professionals who have demonstrated humanism in action when navigating controversial situations. Panelists Erica Harris, MD, Florencia Polite, MD, Nina Stoyan-Rosenzweig, PhD, and Brittany Bruggeman, MD, conveyed the skills and mindset that are necessary to maintain a cool temper on hot topics.

In a session titled “Actionable Stories: Using Story Structure for a Return on Communication,” Lance Brett Hall, MPH, focused on the essential, universal structure of a story and its effectiveness in delivering information and motivating behavior.

Miriam Bar-on, MD, and Aditi Singh, MD, guided attendees on the steps necessary to develop and implement a peer support program within hospital systems in their “The Power of Peers: Advancing the Supportive Environment” session.

With a focus on “moments of meaning,” Martina Ann Kelly, MBBCh, MA, PhD, and Lara Nixon, MD, detailed how clinicians can identify those opportunities for connection and help to strengthen their encounter with patients in a session titled “Flourishing in Doctor-Patient Relationships: Transformative Moments that Stimulate Well-being.”

Dr. Taranjeet Ahuja and Dr. Alice Fornari

In a session that demonstrated the power of the Tell Me More® tool, Taranjeet Ahuja, MD, and Alice Fornari, MD, described how they implemented the program at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and led attendees through an exercise in which they paired up to create their own Tell Me More signs.

Humanism-based solutions to many issues facing healthcare today were also on display in a vibrant Poster Session, which showcased almost 60 projects from trainees and clinicians that made a difference in their institutions, local communities, and beyond.


Telling stories to create change

The Summit brought a who’s who of national humanistic voices together in collective conversation on the state of healthcare.

Gold Trustee Dr. Kimberly Manning giving the opening plenary

Gold Trustee Dr. Kimberly Manning gave the opening plenary with her a powerhouse speech on humanism in action. She is a resident of Atlanta, internist at Grady Hospital, and Professor of Medicine and Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Manning took the theme of the conference — “The Person in Front of You” — and pointed out to students and clinicians that this person in front of you includes not only the patient, but also the person in the mirror.

She detailed the benefits of nourishing connections with patients and colleagues, of sharing yourself, of being someone whom others feel they can “stop” and interrupt or ask for directions.

“Loose ties can change lives, but they often begin with being stoppable,” Dr. Manning said “People are worth it. Allow yourself to be stoppable and share a little bit of yourself.”

And she emphasized the power of stories — a theme that would come up again and again.

Dr. Jillian Horton

As Summit speaker Dr. Danielle Ofri, a founder and Editor-in-Chief of Bellevue Literary Review, said: “For those of us in medicine, the story part of what we do is what provides so much meaning.”

Along with meaning, stories have power to change our circumstances.

Dr. Jillian Horton, who wrote the bestselling memoir We Are All Perfectly Fine, emphasized, “Learning to be an excellent storyteller is part of the strategy of how we are going to change this culture.”


Showcasing art, research, & practical ideas for change

The Gold Humanism Summit also featured opportunities for art making and browsing, as well as joining a startup-like challenge called the Healthcare Barriers Hackathon.

Arinze Ochuba, a medical student at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, poses with his artwork, which was featured in the Art Gallery

In a live event during the conference, five Hackathon teams were charged with coming up with solutions to a specific healthcare challenge facing the Atlanta community: “How can we support limited English proficient patients to lower their A1C on a tri-monthly basis?” The top three winning teams received cash prizes in the event, which was sponsored by the Kern National Network for Flourishing in Medicine.

The creative process didn’t stop there. In an abstract portraits workshop, Dr. Jesse Koskey, prompted attendees to be creative as they drew what they were feeling, thinking, and/or hearing in response to a conversation with another participant.

Pictured are pieces that were part of the Summit Art Gallery

And in one of the largest and most unique features of the Summit, the Art Gallery showcased poems, essays, visual art, photography, video, dance, sculpture, and music, all related to the healthcare experience.

Attendees could peruse many of the works in the Hilton Atlanta and bid on artwork in a silent auction, which raised more than $3,000 for the Gold Foundation’s mission. An expanded digital gallery is available to view on the Gold Foundation website.


Shining a light on the Gold Humanism Honor Society

The finale of the conference was “GHHS Day,” which spotlighted the work of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Open to everyone, the day included a keynote on improv, “Yes And: The Art of Playfulness,” with Dr. Howard Silverman, Professor at The University of Arizona College of Medicine–Phoenix and former Chair of the GHHS Advisory Council, and Tim Cunningham, RN, DrPH, former co-Chief Well-Being Officer at Emory University.

A session on “Finding Meaning in Medicine” featured Scott Shaffer, MD, Assistant Professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Shapir Rosenberg, MD, and Cindy Chang, MD, a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and a Clinical Instructor for the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Cincinnati.

More than a dozen people were also inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society, including Dr. Robert A. Cain, the President and CEO of American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).

Pictured are inductees into the Gold Humanism Honor Society

GHHS Day also included a conversation on “Dream Projects,” in which GHHS members would bring ideas back to their institutions following the Summit, and a “Gold Mining” session, which included 28 roundtable discussions. The featured topics of the roundtables included a focus on trauma-informed care, professional identity formation in early medical school curriculum, and the power of peers in advancing a supportive environment, among many others.


Looking ahead

The next Gold Humanism Summit is being planned for fall 2025. Stay tuned for details.

During her opening remarks, Dr. Kimberly Manning captured a core sentiment that filled the rooms of the Hilton Atlanta throughout the three days.

“I’m grateful for connections and relationships,” she explained.

The Gold Foundation is grateful, too, for all who made the 2024 Gold Humanism Summit a tremendous success. Here’s to the next one!

View the 2024 Gold Humanism Summit Photo Gallery.

Gold Foundation Staff