The Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) recognizes medical students, faculty, and physicians who are exemplars of compassionate patient care and who serve as role models, mentors, and leaders in medicine. The nomination and selection process of members into GHHS must be guided by these values with a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. GHHS members lead their communities in the advancement of the vision of the Gold Foundation to place the interests, values, and dignity of all people at the core of teaching and practice. GHHS members treat patients, clinicians, and colleagues – people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and creeds – with compassion, respect, empathy, dignity, and clinical excellence. GHHS chapters are responsible for creating an environment for its members that is safe, kind, and free from discrimination of any type.
An exemplary GHHS chapter is one that allows for humanism in medicine to flourish at the chapter level, but also encourages individual members to remain leaders of compassionate care as they move through their medical career.
These chapters reflect the fact that while GHHS is honorific in nature, it is not exclusively intended to serve that purpose. GHHS chapters and its members are expected to promote humanism in healthcare by participating in and leading a variety of programming that serves the community at large.
Chapter Affairs Committee member Steve Smith presents on GHHS’ efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion and ways chapter leaders and advisors can practice this on the local level.
Is the Gold Humanism Honor Society Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive in its nomination?
According to a JAMA Network Open Study, researchers find few disparities across GHHS membership. Key findings are listed below and a Q&A featuring two of the study’s authors can also be accessed here.
- Researchers from Yale University, New York University, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and University of California Davis looked at a national sample of 50,384 students who graduated from an allopathic medical school from 2016-2019 and whether they have been selected to GHHS, and/or Alpha Omega Alpha, a medical honor society that recognizes high academic achievement. The researchers then compared the proportion of students from the four categories who were GHHS and/or AOA members to the overall proportion of those students in the national sample to identify any disparities.
- The first study to look closely at Gold Humanism Honor Society membership in medical schools across four categories – race/ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, and childhood family income – found selection into GHHS was no less or more likely for students in most marginalized groups, a rarity for prestigious medical accomplishments.
- For example, whether a student was Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaska Native, white, or multiracial did not affect their likelihood of being a member of GHHS. In fact, students from two traditionally marginalized groups – female students and lesbian, gay, bisexual students – were more likely to be members of GHHS.
- Holding multiple of these identities did not put you at a greater disadvantage of Gold Humanism Honor Society membership then did holding only one of these identities.
- The two exceptions were that Asian students and students with very low childhood income were less likely to be members of GHHS, a concerning discovery that the Gold Foundation will be investigating further.
Given the revelation of this study, Dr. Richard Levin, President and CEO of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the nonprofit organization that created and oversees GHHS states, “We are always interested in improving GHHS. We are committed to investigating more deeply the data on disparities that exist to better understand the possible causes and how we can be an important part of the solution.” In addition, Katherine Hill, one of the authors from the study and a medical student at Yale, suggests “some qualitative research might be really important – actually going out and interviewing low-income students and seeing where their time is going and what they see as barriers to honor society membership, as well as just to fully participating in medical school.”
Peer Nomination Survey Updates + Pilot Study
Numerous articles have shown peer nomination to be accurate, reliable, and particularly useful for assessing interpersonal skills. A multi-institutional study published in Academic Medicine revealed that a peer nomination survey given to medical students can be used to select for student exemplars who manifest characteristics of clinical competence, caring, and community service. Also, the recent JAMA Network Open study mentioned above, examining the demographics of GHHS and AOA, suggests that peer nomination may be useful in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
To ensure that the survey utilized to identify students for nomination to GHHS remains relevant and consistent with the mission and values of the Gold Foundation, we are undergoing a process to revise and revalidate. A peer nomination task force has been assembled to review the survey and update its questions. Born out of several meetings between this group, a pilot study with participating chapters will be conducted during 2023-2024 featuring additional questions in the nomination process. If your chapter would like to participate in the 2024 pilot survey, indicate your interest in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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