Yale Medical School Graduation Address: a Patient Centered Approach

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Dr. Donald Berwick made a unique graduation address at Yale in May 2010. His own daughter was graduating. I wanted to comment on Dr Berwick’s speech and post it for you for a while, but every time I read it I cry.

Advocating patient centered care: What does that mean?

hot chocolateI don’t often write about how healthcare systems or doctors should be more compassionate or sensitive. It seems like that would be too much to ask – we just accept that there are kind people and unkind people everywhere. People with an invisible illnesses like Rheumatoid Arthritis are accustomed insensitive responses. And there’s no way to institutionalize kindness, right? But maybe I was wrong.

Usually, when I think about patient centered care, I’m so much more focused on creating an environment where Rheumatoid Arthritis patients can simply get a proper diagnosis and be treated appropriately. Hearing Dr. Berwick tell about how patients should actually be treated with respect and that doctors should consider it a “privilege” to “serve” is an overwhelming thought. Dr Berwick shows us that we must not aim too low. I agree with him that compassion ought to be part of patient centered care.

Teaching new doctors to be more patient centered and compassionate

Dr. Berwick makes a moving case to young doctors to pursue kindness. I hope you’ll read the whole patient centered graduation address by Dr. Berwick, but here is an excerpt:

You see, today you take a big step into power. With your white coat and your Latin, with your anatomy lessons and your stethoscope, you enter today a life of new and vast privilege. You may not notice your power at first. You will not always feel powerful or privileged – not when you are filling out endless billing forms and swallowing requirements and struggling through hard days of too many tasks. But this will be true: In return for your years of learning and your dedication to a life of service and your willingness to take an oath to that duty, society will give you access and rights that it gives to no one else. Society will allow you to hear secrets from frightened human beings that they are too scared to tell anyone else. Society will permit you to use drugs and instruments that can do great harm as well as great good, and that in the hands of others would be weapons. Society will give you special titles and spaces of privilege, as if you were priests. Society will let you build walls and write rules. And in that role, with that power, you will meet Dr. and Mrs. Gruzenski over, and over, and over again. You will meet them every day – every hour. They will be in disguise.

More from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement on patient centered care.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 2nd, 2010 at 6:00 am and is filed under Communication and Inspiration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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