Vallejo’s Touro University staffer wins national innovation award

The Vallejo-Times Herald
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald

Touro University California staff innovations that help future doctors see the humanity in future patients, earned Tami Hendriksz her third award from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, school officials announced.

The school’s Assistant Dean for Clinical Integration, received her recognition during Association’s recent Annual Awards Banquet.

Hendriksz was honored for her innovative use of Patient Perspective Sessions “to increase preclinical graduate medical student empathy, motivation to learn and ability to recall information,” officials said. “She manages 18 sessions that occur throughout the year inviting patients with Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple  clerosis, congenital heart defects, leukemia, or brain tumors to speak to students about their experience.”

Students learn first-hand about how these diseases affect patients’ lives, officials said.

“It is so much more meaningful and impactful to be able to hear a patient’s story about living with a disease rather than just reading about it in a book,” Hendriksz said. “Having the opportunity to actually hear a patient describe their diagnosis and their treatment process, and then having the opportunity to ask that patient questions, adds to the student’s ability to learn about the disease, to remember the disease process and also increases their empathy towards patients that have similar diseases.”

Hearing these human stories directly from the people living them, students  develop empathy and a more holistic understanding of how patients live with (these) diseases, she said. “These experiences will help future patients receive more compassionate care and could lead to new breakthroughs in treatment to help future patients live with these diseases.”

Besides the empathy more likely to develop through interaction with a disease sufferer, these sessions will likely alter the way these future doctors practice medicine, she said.

“Students will have better recall of the disease process and impacts in the future helping them be more effective medical professionals when working with future patients with similar diseases,” she said. “The way they approach treatment may also change based on the opportunities to ask questions during the Patient Perspective Sessions.”

This new process addresses something lacking in the medical field that previous generations of teachers and students didn’t really realize was missing, she said.

“It’s easy for graduate pre-clinical medical students to lack empathy after reading about illnesses in textbooks,” she said. “Putting a face and a story to the disease helps students form that personal connection and increases understanding around the disease and how patients live with their symptoms, that may not come through with just reading it in a textbook. This is an important change because added empathy will allow doctors to better connect with future patients allowing for a better picture of a patient’s symptoms and ultimately more effective treatment.”

The 120-year-old Association’s Society of Osteopathic Medical Educators confers this national award annually, recognizing how specific educational innovations have resulted in meaningful change at the institutions where they are being implemented, Touro officials said. It represents the 34 accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States and “promotes excellence in medical education, research and service as well as fosters innovation and quality of education to improve the health of the American public,” they said. Osteopathic Medicine colleges are educating nearly 29,000 future physicians – more than 20 percent of all medical students
in the country, they said.