A triangular tower stands in the academic lobby at the UConn Health Center with writing all over it: “extra money in the meter,” “I saved a kitten from a snow bank,” “gave someone directions,” “held the door,” and “shoveled my neighbor’s walkway.” These are just some of the phrases describing the good deeds that students and faculty have done as part of the Gold Humanism Honor Society’s Solidarity Day.
This year the UConn Chapter of GHHS decided to encourage the Health Center to commit 26 acts of kindness in 26 days to honor the 26 lives lost in the Newtown shooting.
The Gold Humanism Honor Society is named after Arnold P. Gold, a professor of clinical neurology and pediatrics who valued humanism in medicine. Humanism in medicine describes relationships between physicians and their patients that are respectful and compassionate.
The GHHS Solidarity Day for Compassionate Patient Care was first held on February 14, 2011, just weeks after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot. It was initiated after trauma surgeon Randall Friese said that his most important act that day was to hold Gifford’s hand and assure her that she was in the hospital and would be cared for. GHHS now celebrates this compassion yearly.
The UConn Chapter’s decision to commemorate Newtown with acts of kindness was a group effort, according to members Avery LaChance and Keila Veiga.
The 11 members and faculty advisor Dr. Melissa Held worked together to create pins, cards to hand out, the tower and a poster. They have even begun to film a video about the 26 Acts of Kindness and humanism in medicine overall.
“Everyone knew it was a good idea, but I don’t think we realized how good until the day of,” says Veiga. “People realized how easy it really is to commit an act of kindness a day.”
“And though easy, it sends a very powerful message. A ton of little things add up to something big,” says LaChance.
The large response was not only from the Health Center — when word got out about the 26 Acts of Kindness for Newtown the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center wanted to join in.
“The doctors at CCMC wanted to get involved with our project because the Newtown shooting hit very close to home for some of their employees,” said Veiga.
The Gold Humanism Honor Society concluded the 26 Acts of Kindness with a flower planting ceremony in the academic lobby. A representative from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation attended and Dr. David Henderson, associate dean of medical student affairs, spoke at the ceremony.
“I think the value of efforts such as this by the GHHS to raise awareness of the importance of individual acts of respect and empathy in our day-to-day dealings with one another cannot be overvalued. We create the society we live in each day by the way we interact with each other. I’m proud that UConn was able to participate in such a great cause,” says Henderson.
“The 26 days is just a start. We want to keep it going and perpetuate it moving forward,” says LaChance. “The pins on everyone’s white coats serve as a daily reminder.”