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. Accordingly, the second major focus of the Center will be research. How best to teach humanism and professionalism to students who are scientifically oriented, heavily challenged by an overwhelming load of factual material and who are preoccupied by the need to pass tests that are necessary to get residency training positions and medical licensure. How does one most effectively teach students something that is hard to define, not quantifiable, largely immeasurable and not of immediate obvious importance to them?
The Center’s third focus will be medical ethics, as ever more complex and expensive testing and treatment becomes available. The ongoing national conversation on who should get what will only accelerate exponentially. How do we solve the ethics of access to healthcare and its distribution? How do we calculate the risk/benefit ratio for each new breakthrough? The list of challenges is endless and the need for major healthcare institutions to have positions and to speak out on these issues becomes increasingly important.
With respect to the center’s fourth focus, for obvious reasons, all individuals entering the healthcare professions need to understand the applicable laws that govern their practice. But, another reason to focus on the law is the traditionally adversarial relationship between attorneys and physicians. These two professions could contribute so much more to our society if they worked together more effectively as has been increasingly the case in resolving End of Life issues.
The fifth important goal of the Center will be for its faculty to speak out on the major issues of the day. 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. 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.