|Nephrology fellow emulates Gold qualities
by Cindy Abole
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
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
Friday, Oct. 31, 2008