Ellen Seidman writes a blog called Love that Max: Kids with Disabilities who Kick Butt. In a recent post titled “You never forget the really kind doctors (or the not-so-kind ones)” she recalls an encounter with Arnold Gold, a pioneering pediatric neurologist.
Ellen’s son, Max, suffered a stroke as a newborn. She met Dr. Gold while Max was in the NICU and their world had turned upside down. “Babies can have strokes?” she wondered in panicked disbelief. What Ellen remembers most about Dr. Gold was his warmth and how he talked with them about what was possible instead of what was ominous. He concentrated on how they could help Max. He provided hope at a time when their world seemed to be collapsing around them.
Arnold Gold saw patients until the age of 88. He passed away in January, but a foundation named for him lives on. It’s mission is to support the humanistic passion that motivates clinicians to enter healthcare in the first place. Here is their mission statement:
The Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s overarching goal is to create the Gold Standard in healthcare – compassionate, collaborative and scientifically excellent care – to support clinicians throughout their careers, so the humanistic passion that motivates them at the beginning of their education is sustained throughout their practice. We strive to ensure that care and respect always govern the relationship between practitioner and patient. www.gold-foundation.org
One of the signature innovations of the Gold Foundation is what we call the White Coat Ceremony. The ceremony serves as a rite of passage for incoming students and is a way to elevate the value of humanism as the core of healthcare. For physicians, it includes reciting the Hippocratic Oath. Many schools now engage their students in a collaborative process to write their own oath which they will recite again at graduation.
In 1988, well into his academic career, Dr. Gold was conducting rounds when a new medical student presented a patient as the “the brain tumor in 209.” According to his New York Times obituary, Dr. Gold’s response was just as you might suspect.
‘The brain tumor? Isn’t there a child involved in this? Tell me about the child, tell me about the family. Tell me how this is impacting on the family. Do you know any of this?’ ”
Apparently, the student knew nothing of the humanity of their patient, and so began Dr. Gold’s quest to protect and support the humanistic passion that motivates students at the outset. He focused on what was possible and thereby has left us with an enduring legacy of hope and kindness.