Cooper Medical School of Rowan Univerisity
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Center for Humanism,

Professionalism, Medical Ethics, and Law

So, there is also a great need to re-learn how to teach these “soft” subjects more effectively.  Students bring to their first day of medical school, a high degree of empathy, but studies show that by the time they are done with their rigorous training, they have lost some of this vitally important quality.  We must focus on how to nurture their natural instincts and to teach them how to “connect” and communicate with patients. 

There will be six major foci of the Center in the years ahead as outlined in the attached graphic.

Bioethics & Law: This working group will work to explore current related resources in the area and examine how medical ethics and law topics are currently addressed in the medical school and the hospital. Areas of deficiency will be identified and methods to address these designed including speaker programs. The goal will be to enhance and build upon current offerings and expand opportunities for the students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, the medical residents, the faculty and the community we serve.

Research: The working group will survey and collect current research in the areas of medical ethics, humanism, professionalism and law. This will include Compassionomics, Tolerance to Ambiguity, and Empathy to name a few. Opportunities to create new studies and include faculty and students at all levels will be the goal. Student Capstone projects will be made available as well as avenues of possible support. This working group will extend its role to all other working groups to explore opportunities.

Humanism & Professionalism: The team assembled to work on the areas of humanism and professionalism will examine the four year curriculum of the medical school to assess strengths and weaknesses. They will look at resources beyond the medical school and link programs at the hospital and local universities. The area of burnout and the use of programs in humanism and professionalism in the national literature to prevent this phenomenon will be emphasized. Current student clubs, local GME initiatives and faculty needs will be explored.

Wellness & Burnout Prevention: The working group will reach out to those involved in wellness programs at all levels locally, and search for areas to partner and grow. Resources and support for new programs will be sought. National data surrounding effective programming will be utilized. Those areas that are needed soon based upon data collected will be prioritized while the larger goal of creating an integrated program for all be identified.

Communication and Compassion: This team will explore national programming proven to enhance communication. Areas of need will be identified at all levels locally. A curricular offering will be developed and this will be integrated into current courses as well as structured as a stand-alone course. Resident and faculty needs will be surveyed.

Hidden Curriculum: The working group will evaluate all current data including the recent student survey, issues identified within both phases of the curriculum, national studies and the recent graduation questionnaires. Possible events at the residency level will be identified and programs created to address these. Faculty and GME education will be a priority.

The Center will speak out on the major issues of the day and create a forum for education and support.  Not only do healthcare providers need to be educated, but so does the public and we hope to become major contributors to the state-wide and national conversation on the myriad of health care related issues currently facing our society. 

The faculty of the Center will be broad-based, with individuals trained in all of these pertinent areas. The medical school and its two parent institutions, i.e., the Cooper Health System and Rowan University, are fortunate to have excellent faculty members for whom the Center will serve to focus and coordinate related pedagogic and research activities. Locally we have the expertise of Rutgers to partner with in this endeavor. We are also fortunate to have attorneys highly experienced in healthcare law and faculty who are trained in bioethics. And, we have a cadre of dedicated physicians and nurses who have particular interest and much to offer in the arenas of Humanism and Professionalism.

Doctors, nurses and other members of the healthcare team need to be steeped in all of these areas before they can be really good practitioners of their art and science.  And, even the most humane and empathetic trainee must be taught how to communicate with patients in ways the latter can understand.