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.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
In 2015, programs will tentatively involve students in exploring:
Other center offerings are expected to include: