Leaders of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) know they have an important mission in fostering a sense of humanism and altruism for themselves and other medical students and professionals. That’s why the latest members are exploring ways to expand the society’s involvement at McGovern Medical School for the coming school year and beyond.

Fourth-year medical student and GHHS president Ryan Lichtarge and others hope to enhance the society’s reach and influence among its members and younger medical students with new projects designed to engage different members of the group. A greater emphasis on programs like the peer mentor group and group discussions focused on a variety of subjects can help students address topics that may be difficult to talk about in other settings.

“What it means to be a doctor is different for everyone,” Lichtarge said. While the overall objective is supporting and advocating for patient-centered care, each member may have a different way of approaching certain situations or perhaps bring different experiences.

That’s where programs like expanded mentorship come in, Lichtarge said. Allowing both experienced and inexperienced students opportunities to interact and discuss humanistic approaches to patient care will benefit all the students involved, and ultimately, their patients.

“By establishing educational mentors or group sessions, we can help students with how to approach difficult patient interactions,” Lichtarge said. “It’s one thing to deal with a patient in a scripted situation and another to meet with a patient and see firsthand a difficult situation physiologically and mentally. Having that student perspective will be beneficial to our group.”

Expanding the group’s reach also will mean offering members a schedule that works around school life, an especially challenging prospect for fourth-year students like Lichtarge.

“One of the issues we face is that many students, myself included, are on away rotations and are busy with applications and interviewing,” Lichtarge said. “One of the things we are excited about is hosting such sessions maybe once a month at the start and expand from there.”

An integral part of moving forward with this new focus will be feedback from the members themselves. The group will have new inductees in January from the third-year medical students, and Lichtarge said he hopes the mentorships will pave the way for greater integration between each class.

“Starting in January and February, we will be working closely with the incoming GHHS class to see what is most feasible moving forward, and we will be discussing how to best engage the entire student body,” Lichtarge said. “I think people should be on the lookout to see more of the fourth-year students than in past years. We are looking to foster a better sense of community because, at the end of the day, we are all going to be colleagues, and the better we know each other, the easier it will be to ask for help or advice when treating patients who would benefit from a more humanistic approach to care.”

The mission of the GHHS is to recognize individuals who are exemplars of humanistic patient care and who can serve as role models, mentors, and leaders in medicine. The power of the Society lies in bringing together like-minded individuals to sustain their own humanism and to inspire and nurture humanism in others.  Membership in GHHS goes beyond selection and induction into an honor society; its members have a responsibility to model, support, and advocate for compassionate, patient-centered care throughout their careers. The creation of a GHHS chapter signifies to the medical community that an institution places high value on the interpersonal skills and attitudes that are essential for the highest level of patient care.