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Saint Barnabas Medical Center Pioneers New Program Bringing Humanities and Humanism to Medicine

LIVINGSTON, N.J., Dec. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- What do poetry, art, literature, film and history have to do with medical practice? "Everything," according to Richard S. Panush, M.D., Chair of Medicine at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, who has pioneered an innovative program bringing humanities to the bedside for residents in internal medicine.

"Studying the humanities helps us restore the 'soul' of medicine," explains Dr. Panush, who is a leader among a growing group of physicians and medical educators who are embracing the importance of including humanities education in the curriculum of medical students and residents as a means to enhance humanism, trust, empathy and compassion.

The Internal Medicine Residency program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center is among an elite group of 21 internal medicine residency programs selected out of 388 nationwide, to participate in the Educational Innovations Project (EIP), a challenge set forth by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the national organization responsible for accrediting residency training programs. In its call for proposals, the ACGME was seeking innovations to integrate improvements in medical education with improvements in quality and safety of patient care, noting that they are inextricably linked. The program was established in part with funds from the Harvey E. Nussbaum, MD, Research Institute of Saint Barnabas Medical Center and Saint Barnabas Medical Center. Funding has also been received from the Saint Barnabas Medical Center Community Advocates and the Somville-Tilling Fund. In October, The Health Care Foundation of New Jersey committed philanthropic support for this program. The program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center is the only one selected that focuses on humanities and humanism in medicine. Ultimately this project, along with the other selected innovation projects, may help to rewrite the future of medical education and patient care for the next generation of physicians.

Dr. Panush speaks empathically about the importance of incorporating humanities into the education and training of young physicians, explaining that our society needs not only skilled clinicians but also medical humanitarians. "We need to go back to the roots of medicine which was epitomized by people who were passionately humanistic," he explains. "By studying the humanities we can uncover what it means to be a patient and restore this to our noble profession -- training better doctors, learning better the art of medicine and offering better care to the sick."

Through daily rounds and weekly multidisciplinary conferences, residents and faculty have an opportunity to examine an article, poem, piece of literature or artwork that stimulates discussion on humanistic patient care. The selections are often provocative, designed to give a deeper perspective on patient care. "I enjoyed every session -- every article, poem, painting and piece of literature," commented third-year resident Dilprit Bagga, M.D., Ph.D. "The educational experience was extraordinary. The door of humanity education is opened for me now."

In its first year the program has already had a transformative effect on resident education, significantly improving measures of attitudes and practices of physicians and patient care outcomes. Core faculty members, Ashish Parikh, M.D., Sunil Sapru, M.D., Anthony Carlino, M.D., and Mindy Houng, M.D., aided by project coordinator M. Martha Eid, and special consultant/collaborator Paul Wangenheim, M.D., have embraced the challenge of enriching the curriculum while also developing tools to assess the effectiveness of the program for both resident performance and patient care outcomes. Residents have responded enthusiastically, describing the humanities curriculum as a "refreshing addition to resident training" that serves as a daily reminder that they are treating patients and not just illness. "These sessions are an important reminder to us every day that our patients are 'humans' and not just another chart," said third-year resident Xu Wang, M.D., Ph.D.

As the program embarks on its second year this fall, Dr. Panush is encouraged by the impact the program has had at Saint Barnabas Medical Center and in the broader medical community. "I hope people are rediscovering what 19th century physician William Osler, known as the Father of Modern Medicine, said when he described the practice of medicine as being an art based on science. This understanding is fundamental to clinical medicine. We are excited and proud to be at the forefront of putting this into action in our residency training program."

Ramesh Guthikonda, M.D., a second-year resident, captured the core of the program's goals and accomplishments: "The EIP (humanities program) is like a fresh, cool breeze on a hot humid day and a new wave of thought processes of how to modify oneself to be a better doctor and, ultimately, a better human being. I feel lucky to be part of the process from the beginning."

Since 1865, Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC), located at 94 Old Short Hills Road in Livingston, is New Jersey's oldest nonprofit, nonsectarian hospital. The 597-bed institution is one of the largest heath care providers in the state, treating more than 37,000 inpatients and over 75,000 Emergency Department patients each year. The Medical Center and the Saint Barnabas Ambulatory Care Center provide treatment and services for more than 300,000 outpatient visits annually.

SBMC is ranked among the top five percent of hospitals in the country for Overall Clinical Performance by HealthGrades and is the recipient of the HealthGrades 2008 and 2007 Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence(TM) and the 2007 and 2008 HealthGrades Excellence Award(TM) in Cardiac Care, Bariatric Surgery, Maternity Care, and Women's Health. SBMC was also chosen as the best hospital in New Jersey and the 13th best hospital in the United States by AARP Modern Maturity magazine. For more information on Saint Barnabas Medical Center, please visit and select Saint Barnabas Medical Center from the facilities list or call l-888-SBHS-123.

SOURCE Saint Barnabas Medical Center
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