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Nephrology fellow emulates Gold qualities

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Nephrology fellow Donna Sanders, D.O., is known for her caring attitude and empathy with her dialysis patients, their families and colleagues.
In September, Sanders and husband, Michael, a pulmonary fellow at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine currently working at Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, were honored at the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Biennial Meeting in Chicago. The couple was recognized by medical students at the Virginia College of Osteopathy Medicine where they both conducted their residencies for their humanism and service. Both also were inducted into the national Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism Honor Society, which boasts several noted physicians on its professional advisory board including pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson, M.D., of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
“I consider it an honor to be tapped by my peers,” said Sanders. “It shows that my actions and attitude have made an impact with someone. It’s very encouraging to me as a physician.”
 The Arnold P. Gold Foundation sponsors the Gold Award in Humanism in Medicine to promote excellence in medicine and developing programs that exemplify humanistic attitudes. The Gold Society defines a humanistic doctor with the following characteristics: integrity, excellence, compassion, altruism, respect, empathy and service.
Sanders was inspired by these qualities early in her medical school years as a student in Pikeville College School of Osteopathic Medicine in Pikeville, Ky. During her first year of medical school, Sanders and her family were disappointed in the care her 16-year-old brother received following an automobile accident on Christmas Eve 2001. Her brother had shattered his hip and was in bad shape. She recalls the attitude of the attending surgeon as not being very personable, caring or empathic to her or her parents during that long evening.
“My parents and I had no clue about my brother’s care plan. No one took the time to talk to us or involve us in what was going on. The lack of communication by the physician and care team left us with a bad impression,” said Sanders, whose brother eventually recovered.
At that moment she vowed she would try not to emulate that physician’s attitude. Sanders pledged that she would treat every one of her patients as if they were her own family.
Throughout school, she sought out mentor-physicians who demonstrated humanistic qualities. She quickly learned that not all brilliant physicians possessed good bedside manners or took the time to connect with patients and their families. Following graduation from Pikeville, she was an internal medicine resident in Norton, Va., where she first learned of the Gold Humanism Awards after receiving an invitation to attend a ceremony at Virginia Tech.
“Embracing the Gold qualities doesn’t come so naturally to everyone,” Sanders said, who works daily with a patient population that possesses a high mortality rate. “Sometimes I catch myself getting out of the habit. It’s so easy as a medical student or resident to get consumed by the daily duties, tasks, responsibilities, etc. It takes an extra effort. For those that have had an unpleasant personal experience, a good physician remains committed to listening and explaining things to patients and families.”
Sanders hopes to work closely with MUSC’s Gold Humanism Honor Society chapter advisor Jeff Wong, M.D., and help teach and promote these standards among MUSC medical students in every level.
“The Sanderses hard work and interactions with patients, families and colleagues are truly admirable traits,” said Wong.
“I believe it’s important to instill these qualities early on in medical school so that students get into a habit and practice humanistic qualities with their patient care,” Sanders said. “They need to see what potential they have to make an impact on a patient and their family.”
So far, Donna and Michael Sanders have been recognized for their humanistic qualities by the American Association of Medical Colleges and other institutions. Both have been tapped to receive multiple humanism awards and continue to receive praise for their efforts and example.


Friday, Oct. 31, 2008

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