Published August 25, 2011
Kim Griswold, MD ’94, MPH, associate professor of family medicine, psychiatry and social and preventive medicine, was selected by students to receive the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award at this year’s White Coat Ceremony.
The award, sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, is presented annually to a faculty member who demonstrates outstanding compassion in the delivery of care, clinical excellence and respect for patients, their families and health care colleagues.
Griswold established the school’s highly innovative and successful Cultural Competency Program in 2003.
It teaches students how to care for patients with diverse cultural backgrounds while improving access to preventive and primary services for refugees who have legally immigrated to Western New York.
Griswold also researches ways to help individuals with serious mental illnesses gain better access to primary care in order to decrease the high levels of morbidity and mortality they have compared with the general population.
In nominating Griswold, students praised her rapport with patients.
One recalled how Griswold eased the fears of a young African refugee seeking a pregnancy test.
“In the patient’s culture, being pregnant before marriage would have resulted in her being severely beaten,” the student noted. “I saw a tremendous change on her face after her visit with Dr. Griswold. Her initial tears of fear and anguish turned to joy, with the patient knowing that she was now under the care of an extremely compassionate physician.”
Another commended Griswold’s “refreshing spirit of warmth and leadership for disadvantaged and immigrant communities.”
As an example of Griswold’s concern for patients, one of the nominating students recounted a moving encounter between the physician and a woman with schizophrenia and stage IV breast cancer.
”The patient experienced a lot of pain due to her diffuse bone metastasis, yet it seemed that the care team ignored what she had to say, going straight to changing medications based on labs and vitals. Even though the care team had switched, and Dr. Griswold no longer was the patient’s physician, she continued visiting her on her own.
“As Dr. Griswold held the patient’s hand and truly listened to her, I could see her anguish and pain dissolve. In that moment—in the eye contact between the physician and patient—I saw the true spirit of humanism in medicine.”