By Bill Bruton
Published July 10, 2023
The Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Class of 2025 was honored during the 21st annual Student Clinician Ceremony.
The ceremony recognizes the transition of rising third-year medical students from the academic to the clinical years.
The event, developed by students and faculty, aims to reinforce the confidence felt by students entering their clinical years by discussing fears and expectations, providing insight and revisiting the oath taken during their White Coat Ceremony.
The intention of the ceremony is to initiate medical students into their clinical years with a support system.
“During your third year and fourth year, you will discover your path, and wherever your path takes you, you will be the best physician we have trained,” said Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD, associate dean for student and academic affairs and clinical associate professor of neurology, who gave the welcome. “Just know that we have your back. The attendings, the faculty members, the residents, the interns, the nurses, the physical therapists and the occupational therapists are all here to help you and to teach you, as are your patients and your families.”
He stressed the importance of the doctor-patient relationship.
“I want you all to realize, above everything, the importance of the physician-patient relationship during your training. Your patients will be your tests. Listen to your patients, listen to their stories. Remember to treat your patients with compassion and empathy,” Silvestri said.
“What is humanism in medicine? It’s positive action toward patients, such as using your knowledge to help them, being compassionate and respectful of their values and beliefs, empathizing with them, which is putting yourself in their shoes for the moment, being honest, and serving others,” Kowalski said. “Time and time again I’ve seen examples of humanism, compassion and kindness by the medical students I work with. When a patient says to me after a visit, ‘that student really listened to me,’ or ‘where was that student I saw last time?’ that feedback is music to my ears, because I know that you made a difference with that patient.”
He continues to be inspired by his students. He related a story about the first time he participated in UB Heals, accompanying medical students downtown to care for the homeless. In an alleyway near the KeyBank Center, they encountered five homeless men. One of the men had his feet caked in dirt. Two students, using their cellphone lights to see, washed the man’s feet with hand gel, clipped his nails, and put new socks on his feet.
“It was one of the most spontaneous and amazing acts of kindness and compassion that I have ever seen. You know that saying, ‘you’re never too old to learn’ — that night those students taught me a new way to care for others. This is caring and compassion that cannot be taught in a lecture hall,” Kowalski said.
Kowalski grew up in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga and had a great family doctor who cared for his grandparents, parents and himself.
“I wanted to be a family doctor just like him. He was my role model,” Kowalski said.
He advised the students to do the following when meeting with patients:
Polity president Justin Im, Class of 2025, talked about the many hats those in attendance wear — student, researcher, volunteer with Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic, UB Heals or the like.
“There are many different worlds that we seamlessly switch throughout the day. It’s safe to say that we sometimes get lost in the sauce,” Im said. “Sometimes we forget about the most important hat — in the midst of all this, we are still someone’s son or daughter, someone’s best friend, someone’s sister or brother, and someone’s niece or nephew.”
Im and Kowalski offered prescient advice for the students.
“As we go through this next year, we will continue to find ourselves overwhelmed from all the different responsibilities and long hours. We must continue to do our best to make sure that family and friends always come first,” Im said.
“Don’t forget to make time for yourself, time with your family, friends and classmates. They are your support system,” Kowalski said.
Students in the Class of 2024 nominated six residents to receive the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Awards. The awards are based on their demonstration of commitment to teaching and compassionate treatment of patients, families, students and colleagues.
Samantha Bordonaro, MD, assistant dean for student and academic affairs and clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine, and Megan Malueg, Class of 2026 — a member of the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) — presented the awardees, who are:
The event was presented by the PCC, established in 2000 when the Code of Professional Conduct for UB medical students was ratified. It consists of three student representatives from each class and three faculty members.
The ceremony took place June 23 in the David C. Hohn, MD, Lecture Hall in the Research Studies Center at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.