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Vital Signs

Gold Society honors giants of the past and of the present

By Rosemary Lunardini

There were giants of medicine present at the inaugural induction ceremony in June of a new DMS honor society. There in the memory of many was Dr. Thomas Almy, for whom the society is named—the Thomas P. Almy Chapter of the Gold Humanism in Medicine Honor Society. His daughter, Susan Almy, was at the event. So were many faculty and students who had known Almy, who came to DMS as chair of medicine in 1968 and died in 2002.

The 11 inductees, all DMS '06s, did not have that opportunity. However, physicians who worked or studied with Almy have continued to pass on what mattered to him—especially the essence of what he called "the healing bond" between physician and patient. Almy, in fact, was one of the exemplars cited by noted physician-author Dr. Lewis Thomas in his book The Youngest Science.

Qualities: DMS's senior advising dean, Dr. Joseph O'Donnell, spearheaded the creation of the Dartmouth Gold Society chapter, the 53rd in the U.S. He says Almy exemplified the qualities that are fostered by the Gold Society, whose goal is to recognize medical students, residents, and faculty who demonstrate humanistic qualities.

The 11 founding members of the DMS chapter were selected by their peers, clerkship directors, and the assistant deans for clinical education. Six residents and two faculty members will soon be added to the roster. The founding student members were Matthew Baird, Brett Chevalier, Joseph Dwaihy, Lisa Ernst, Scott Hughes, Christopher Jons, Andrew Place, John Raser, Rebecca Swenson, Roy Wade, and Emily Walker.

Gold: Another giant of medicine present at the induction ceremony was Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon general and a pioneering pediatric surgeon. Soon to turn 90, Koop said, "I knew both gentlemen—Tom Almy and Ronald Gold." Dr. Gold established the society that bears his name.

"You enter a far different world of medicine than I did 65 years ago this week," Koop told the students, most of whom were about to begin residency. They would face an environment, Koop said, with more chronic disease, uncovered by testing and screening, as well as more unmet needs. He offered himself as an example of what medicine today can do, saying he has two artificial knees, a stent, and two pacemakers and takes 13 pills.

Care: "You may not be able to cure, but you will always be able to care," Koop advised. "I really, at 90, envy you," he said, "and wish I could join you."

There were also lesser giants at the induction, though they loomed every bit as big in the eyes of the 11 students who invited them, from among all their teachers, to be at the ceremony. These 11 mentors—some young and eager, others still eager though they've been role models chemotherapyfor years—included O'Donnell and Drs. Brian Lombardo, Patricia Pratt, Roshini Pinto-Powell, Ryan DeLee, Mark Harris, Todd Poret, Peter Mason, Timothy Gardner, and Nancy Cochran, plus the director of multicultural affairs, Shawn O'Leary.

Each student and mentor had something to say about the other. "Dr. Pratt knows her patients so well," said Chevalier. "I want to be like her." And Pratt said that whenever her patients saw Chevalier, "a therapeutic relationship started. Brett was always able to find that little spark."

Sing: Joseph Dwaihy noted that Pinto-Powell "has a dedication to students that is unparalleled." And she replied, "I do love the students. All 11 are so deserving it makes my heart sing. . . . All of you will receive many accolades in the future, but I hope this one means a lot."

Christopher Jons said of O'Donnell, "I saw Joe model the compassion and love that he just let blossom," while O'Donnell recalled a frightened patient far from home for whom "Chris was the doctor for his soul."

"I really loved the mentoring aspect that was brought to the ceremony," said Allison Sole, associate director of the honor society's national organization, who attended the induction. "It was a brilliant innovation that I hope other chapters will adopt."

All 11 honorees received a Gold Society lapel pin and a plaque bearing the words "Medicine is the most humane of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities."

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