On the Importance of Marrying Science with Compassion
May 31, 2015 12:00 AM
At a time when the nation is so singularly focused on the business of health care –– on getting lean, bending the cost curve, and treating patients as consumers –– it can feel as if medicine has strayed from its roots, its raison d'être.
Why, then, as I reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing our graduating Class of 2015, I am filled with so much optimism?
Last weekend’s commencement speaker, Utah philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. explains it best. As Founder and Executive Chairman of Huntsman Corporation, Jon knows business. And as founder of the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI), and a four-time cancer survivor, he knows health care. “My life was literally turned over to these great professionals and like so many around the United States and around the world, they knew just what to do,” he told graduates on Saturday.
Yet what truly distinguishes HCI, he said, and what determines the success of all great health professionals and health institutions is simple: Putting the customer, and compassion, first. “As a newly minted health care professional, you have the single obligation to make hope, humility , kindness, warmth, sympathy, love and understanding always supersede the lectures in the lab, or the latest medical technology. …Science and technology will proceed at an exponential pace during your careers, but this oath of humility… will remain constant.”
HCI is in the business of hope, said Jon Huntsman, and that credo is reflected in unparalleled patient satisfaction scores (consistently in the 99th percentile) at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital. It’s what I want our graduates to consider as their professional duty: To marry science with compassion.
My greatest hope for our early-career scientists is to be driven by compassion for the people whose lives they will impact with their discoveries. To our practitioners, I say, value the discoveries your scientific colleagues unearth, and convert them to leading edge care, delivered with a compassionate hand. In any role, I would counsel them to teach others to do the same.
A couple of years ago I brought my father to the HCI for a procedure. His own doctors at home hadn’t been able to figure out a diagnosis, and he was not doing well. We were all very anxious, and tired. Fortunately, the procedure went smoothly, and most importantly, my parents felt very reassured and really comforted through the process. As we left, my father remarked just how spectacular the care had been, to which my mother replied, “Well Dear, they probably know who your daughter is.” Without missing a beat, the nurse walking beside us said, “We treat everyone here like a VIP.”
I have a little speech that I make to 2nd year medical students in which I talk about their transition to the 3rd year, from the classroom to the clinic. In that year, students move from learning and memorizing to applying and caring. They move from being the grateful recipient of guidance and knowledge to becoming the provider of such to patients. And once they make that transition, it holds forever.
The future of health care has never been brighter. For our trainees, and the health institutions that they one day lead, the recipe for success is simple: Keep patients at the center and make each and every one of them feel like a VIP under your care.
At a Glance: University of Utah’s Class of 2015
- 78 Doctor of Medicine degrees
- 43 Doctor of Philosophy degrees (most common: human genetics, neuroscience, public health and oncological sciences)
- 143 Master of Science degrees (most common: physician assistant studies, public health, and clinical investigation)
- 27 Bachelor of Science degrees