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Humanism conference inspires participants

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March 6, 2017

Yoga in the garden. Therapeutic horticulture. Improvisational acting sessions. Painting with your feet. Those and other activities awaited the nine College of Medicine students and three faculty members who took part last month in a conference designed to promote humanism in medicine.

The second Chapman Regional Symposium of Florida Gold Humanism Honor Society Chapters took place at the University of Florida.

“We are all already working together on ideas to further humanism at FSU,” Daniel “Juno” Lee, Class of 2018, wrote in an email to his fellow participants afterward. “I’m excited to see what changes we can bring.”

Humanism is characterized by a respectful and compassionate relationship between members of the health-care team and their patients, sensitive to others’ values and their cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

The conference was funded by the Jules B. Chapman, M.D., and Annie Lou Chapman Foundation. Besides Lee, College of Medicine student participants were Dijo Joseph (Class of 2018), Keith Kincaid (Class of 2018), Stefano Leitner (Class of 2019), Kristin Magrini (Class of 2018), Angelina Malamo (Class of 2017), Ioannis Malidelis (Class of 2019), Casey Mason (Class of 2020) and Stephanie Tran (Class of 2018). Faculty participants included Suzanne Harrison, M.D.; Bob Watson, M.D., the Chapman Foundation trustee; and Tana Welch, Ph.D. Watson delivered welcoming remarks, and Leitner – captain of the Chapman Community Health Project – spoke about student-run free clinics.

The conference’s activities were imaginative.

“‘Painting with Feet’ was the hobby of an ALS patient who had lost function in her arms and diaphragm,” Kincaid said. “Although her body was failing, she continued her love of painting and wouldn’t let her condition define her. It was a fun and unique opportunity for a valuable lesson in empathy.”

Mason enjoyed getting her hands dirty in a greenhouse.

"Through something as simple as potting a succulent, we were able to build trust with our peers, encourage our senses to lead us, and feel empowered by the tiny plant we had given life to," she said.

Why was medical improv included? The agenda answered that question: “While physician-patient interaction is structured, it is not scripted, and no courses exist that develop these skills outside of rotations. Many students struggle with this aspect of medicine because they do not have the opportunity to practice these interactions before being thrown into clinical situations. Improv provides this experience; it encourages adaptability, dealing with the unpredictable, development of listening skills, mental agility to think creatively and recognize patterns in rapidly changing circumstances, and collaboration, all skills that are important in medical training.”

For Harrison, the best part was learning about ideas that she could borrow from UF.

“A program I’d love to implement here at FSU,” she said, “is called COMmunity, a student-run group through which medical students at the University of Florida meet to share challenges, and are able to grow and heal through peer discussion in a safe environment.”

IN THE PHOTO: From left, Casey Mason, Keith Kincaid, Tana Welch, Kristin Magrini and Dijo Joseph.