Treating the whole patient — with Valentine's Day love

February 14, 2017

Medical school students create cards for St. Vincent's patients

Students at the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine worked on some hearts last week — not with scalpels, but with scissors, glue and a bit of glitter.

The fruits of their labor – homemade Valentine’s Day cards — brought smiles to the faces of patients that they visited on Feb. 12 at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, a primary clinical partner of the medical school.

In addition to cards, the dozen or so students also brought small bouquets of roses and carnations to the patients in the labor and delivery; surgical and medical intensive care; general medical; impatient oncology; and general surgery and trauma units.

“We tried to stay at least for at least five or 10 minutes with each patient,” said second-year student Rishi Chadha.

“Most of them were so happy to see us, they talked our ears off. We felt bad when it was time to leave.” Chadha, president of the Surgery Interest Group at the School of Medicine, organized the visit with help from Dr. Christine Van Cott, a surgical oncologist at St. Vincent’s and assistant professor of surgery and surgical clerkship director at the medical school.

“We believe that every patient should feel loved on this special day,” said Van Cott. “This extra special delivery may be the only gift some of our patients receive.”

Connecting with patients is a vital part of being a doctor, Van Cott said.

“A physician’s compassion is often communicated in the smallest of ways,” she said. “Acts like these will begin to shape our students in the art of doctoring.”

The students also enjoyed the visit, as well as the arts and crafts sessions that preceded it, Chadha said.

One afternoon last week students gathered in a lecture hall to make cards, but Chadha said he also left art supplies in a lounge at the medical school for several days.

“I left a note that basically said, ‘If you are taking a study break, maybe you can take 10 or 15 minutes to make a card.’ The students got really into it. We ended up with more than 80 cards.” 

The students visited with a wide range of patients.

“One woman told me she came in with pneumonia, but that the doctors found cancer. She told me, ‘You have to take it as it comes.’ She has such a positive outlook,” said Chadha, noting that he was inspired by her resilience and reminded of why he chose a medical career. 

“Sometimes people look at doctors as machines,” he said. “But everyone I know at Netter came into this field because we genuinely care for people. It’s so good to give back at events like this.”

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