Picture of the Gold Foundation For Humanistic Healthcare Canada, AFMC

At its core, humanism is a concept which weaves together the science and the art of medicine. The American Arnold P. Gold Foundation, established by the Gold family in an effort to “nurture and preserve the tradition of the caring physician,” has been striving to accomplish this since its inception through the development of various programs — including the Humanism in Medicine Award at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to honour caring and compassionate mentors in medical school education.

Dr. Sarita Verma, Vice President of Education at the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), notes that this ideal — providing compassionate care that is sensitive to patients’ values, as well as the integrity and nature of the physician-patient relationship — resonates quite strongly with Canadian medical students as well. Earlier this year, the need to acknowledge individuals exemplifying these qualities on a national level led to the creation of the new AFMC – Arnold P. Gold Humanism Award and Lecture through collaboration between the AFMC and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for Humanistic Healthcare Canada (APGFC).

In an age of increasingly rapid technological advances, with innovations such as artificial intelligence threatening to dehumanize medicine if caution is not exercised, society has begun to question the role of the physician. As demonstrated by impressive displays at the CMA’s inaugural Health Summit in Winnipeg this summer, technology simultaneously has the power to enhance healthcare and to inhibit physicians’ ability to connect with patients. Dr. Verma posits that the profession will need to evolve accordingly: “Maybe our role will be to lay hands on people… to make eye contact and say, ‘I know how you feel.’” This shift will not occur overnight, and will bring with it a host of accompanying dilemmas — for example, it will likely be necessary to re-evaluate the CanMEDS framework. As the roles of Medical Expert and Scholar are subsumed by the encroaching reach of Dr. Google, that of the Professional becomes increasingly relevant. “Do we select for that right now?” Dr. Verma asks. “I don’t think so… we mostly select for intellectual prowess and resilience, or the ability to get through a tough program.”

Her hope is that the creation of this award will help emphasize the importance of cultivating humanistic qualities such as compassion and sensitivity in future physicians. Each year, a role model will be recognized for exemplifying what draws many into medicine in the first place. The AFMC – Gold Humanism Award is distinguished from other awards such as the AFMC – Charles Boelen International Social Accountability Award by its criteria; this new award seeks to highlight individuals who often work in the background to elevate the ideals of humanism and patient-centred care, not just those whose accomplishments have led to tangible outcomes. The award recipient will be someone who supports and models a humanistic learning environment, providing positive reinforcement to incoming health professionals. Dr. Verma anticipates that nominees will come from a diverse variety of backgrounds — not just physicians — and hopes that this endeavour will ultimately help deepen the relationship between medicine and the humanities.

The call for nominations was launched July 5th and will be closing on September 28th, 2018. The winner will be presented with their award at the 2019 Canadian Conference on Medical Education (CCME) in Niagara Falls, and will receive complimentary registration for the conference in addition to having the opportunity to offer a lecture or lead a thought-leader session on a topic related to humanism and medicine. Of note, next year’s CCME will also mark the 10th anniversary of the White Coat Warm heART exhibition, another initiative emphasizing the importance of the humanities in medicine.

To learn more about the AFMC – Gold Humanism Award and Lecture or to submit a nomination, please visit www.afmc.ca/awards.