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Jack F. Coyne, MD

Pediatrician and advocate Jack F. Coyne, MD, encourages medical students to consider subjective information from patients as part of a comprehensive assessment.

Medical Humanities Series Begins With ‘Reflections On a Career’

Published August 25, 2014

“All you have to do is have a good relationship with your patient. Focus on what’s going on in their lives,” Jack T. Coyne, MD ’85, clinical associate professor of pediatrics, advised medical students during the inaugural program of the University at Buffalo’s Center for Medical Humanities.

“Medicine is not just clinical. There’s so much information, so much heart that you have that makes a difference...”
Jack T. Coyne, MD ’85
Clinical associate professor of pediatrics

Coyne opened a monthly noon speaker series — one of several enrichment opportunities the center will offer this year to help medical students consider the human dimension of medicine.

His Aug. 18 talk, “Reflections on a Career in Medicine,” attracted 145 students.

The high turnout “demonstrates our students’ strong interest in the interface between culture, society and the practice of medicine,” says center director Linda F. Pessar, MD, professor emerita of psychiatry.

Career of Service: Advocate, Physician, Teacher, Priest

Through an eclectic career spanning five decades, “a sense of having to serve has always been there,” says Coyne. 

He worked with inner-city youth in St. Louis, was ordained a Catholic priest and helped lead a record company in Connecticut that produced albums with humanistic songs.

Coyne’s desire to help the poor led him to a refugee camp in Cambodia, where an overworked doctor spontaneously handed him a stethoscope and asked him to pitch in and help.

Coyne eventually decided he could “serve better by being a physician.”

So 18 years after earning his bachelor’s degree in sociology from St. Louis University, he graduated from UB’s medical school, where, he says, “I had the time of my life.”

“You have so many gifts here in this medical program,” he adds.

Not Just Clinical: Make A Difference With ‘Heart’

Coyne has gone on to serve children in Western New York as a pediatrician and advocate, particularly for victims of abuse.

He helped create and practiced at the former Roberto Clemente Health Center on Buffalo’s West Side. He also helped form the area’s first multidisciplinary child advocacy centers, where he continues to serve as medical director.

“Medicine is not just clinical,” he emphasizes. When treating children, “remember what it was like when you were a kid. There’s so much information, so much heart that you have that makes a difference for these kids.”

He also encourages aspiring physicians to consider subjective information from patients as part of a comprehensive assessment.

“We’ve got to believe what we hear,” he says. “Do more believing of your patients than not.”

Series to Explore Humanistic Questions

Working with a multidisciplinary advisory committee that involves faculty, residents and medical students, UB’s Center for Medical Humanities is integrating humanism into the core medical curriculum as well as extracurricular programs.

The goal is to enhance students’ interpersonal skills and enrich their understanding of social and cultural contexts related to the practice of medicine.

The noon speaker series will continue to feature topics of particular interest to students in the first two years, or preclinical stage, of medical school. Future presentations include:

  • Sept. 23: “Reflections on the Preclinical Years” by William Stendardi and “Reflections on the Third Year” by Melissa Hoffman, both UB medical students
  • Oct. 14: “From the ‘White Plague’ to Killer Superbug: Tuberculosis and the Meanings of Disease” by David Herzberg, PhD, associate professor of history
  • Nov. 5: “Anatomical Practices, Bodies and Their Curious Histories” by James J. Bono, PhD, associate professor and chair of history
  • Nov. 19: “Nothing About Us Without Us: How the Global Disability Rights Movement is Transforming Medicine” by Michael Rembis, PhD, assistant professor of history 

In 2015, programs will tentatively involve students in exploring:

  • UB’s history of medicine book and artifacts collection
  • creativity, medical thinking and the psychology of physicians and patients
  • images and narratives of physicians and medicine in popular culture

Activities Offer Creative Expression, Reflection

Other center offerings are expected to include:

  • small-group discussion and reflection with physician facilitators, using visual art, free-writing prompts and readings as entryways into humanistic questions and topics
  • a glass display case for creative works, curated by and open to all medical students, featuring doodles, haiku, sketches, mementos, photographs, comic strips and writings, for example
  • a searchable medical humanities database, including articles from medical journals, the popular press and literary works, along with a blog to allow students to share and discuss writing and images 
  • a half-day intercession for first-year medical students featuring lectures on broad topics of medicine and society, such as ethics and cultural diversity, and various interactive electives
  • opportunities for students to draw the anatomy they are dissecting in gross anatomy from a live model at the Anderson Gallery, building their observational skills and their understanding of living anatomy
  • an intensive work group planned by and for students interested in a more in-depth study of humanism in medicine