College of

First-year medical students display reflective projects

November 2011


All 200 College of Human Medicine first-year medical students from East Lansing and Grand Rapids displayed their creative expressions of the “patient-physician relationship” in late November.

The midterm reflective project for the class, “Introduction to the Patient-Physician Relationship” is a tradition for first-year medical students at the College of Human Medicine. 

Students are asked to express the core values that they, as future physicians, will bring to their patients and to the profession – and express these values through any medium, including collage, drawing, painting, photography, poetry, music and sculpture.

Again this year, the creativity of these future physicians did not disappoint.

Ashley Hesson:  My project represents my interpretation of patient-centeredness and how that interpretation has developed over time. It has two major parts: the flowerpot and the plant. 

The flowerpot symbolizes my major influences, people and experiences that have touched my life. As I made the fingerprints on the flowerpot, I thought of my family, mentors, and friends. All of these individuals have influenced my concept of what it means to be a physician. My parents, for example, in their unwavering support, have taught me what it means to believe in someone. I will try to show the same dedication to my patients. Similarly, my research mentors have taught me to hold myself to a higher standard, to confront my shortcomings and improve on them. I owe that sense of humility to my patients and to the profession.

Inside the flowerpot, I’ve included tokens of personal experiences that have shaped my growth as a person and as a future physician. The syringe represents my experience as a patient. It reminds me of the pain and vulnerability I felt, feelings that I need to recognize in my patients. The glasses represent the experience of perceiving situations differently. They symbolize a unique vision, one that is always accompanied by an uncomfortable doubt that others are see things the same way. The compass, a piece of my grandfather’s equipment from World War II, is a symbol of my family’s history. It represents a responsibility to be grateful, hardworking, and resilient. Collectively, the glasses and compass symbolize a sense of self-awareness that I believe is central to patient-centered care. The tray that surrounds the pot is about fitting into the College of Human Medicine.

As I wrote the virtuous student physician traits around the rim, I remembered Dean Rappley’s speech at our White Coat Ceremony and the sense of belonging that I felt while listening to her words.  By placing the flowerpot in the tray, it’s my way of committing to the College of Human Medicine’s patient-centered values and incorporating them as part of myself. 

The stem, leaves, and flower illustrate my journey through med school. Each leaf carries symbols of medical education and practice interspersed with patient-centered values. Words like “kind” and “compassionate” are juxtaposed against medical supplies, showing the integration of medical art and science. I wound a thin strip of text around the stem to represent my linguistics research. As my medical competencies grow, this band ties me to study of medical communication. It represents a commitment to disseminating patient-centeredness through my choice of research questions and in my teaching. 

The flower itself shows the blossoming of my research and practice. The handprints represent the lives I hope to touch and the patients’ whose stories will touch me. The text (cut up abstracts from a medical communication conference) supports these hands, symbolizing my ultimate goal of being a patient-centered, physician-scientist. To me, this means orienting all of my research, teaching, and practice towards improving patient care.

Jason Miller:   "Self-reflection is an important task required of a competent 
physician. While a physician must continually evaluate his actions, it is also
meaningful to identify one's own perspectives and biases. As a potential
patient himself, a physician is reminded that patients also hold deep-seated
values and outlooks, which are to be respected. Sometimes, although the
subject is the same, these views are different, even reversed as in a mirror.
A physician should strive to always embrace his own humanity 
and that of others."

Irene Nunuk: The Elements of a Physician 
"The 'Elements of a Physician' resembles the periodic table of traits that a physician should possess when working with patients. As the periodic table in science portrays 
the pure substances that make up life and earth, my table of physician’s elements portrays the full purpose and meaning of becoming a physician. The shape of my periodic table resembles the basic science and knowledge, however I want to become more than those superficial views to my patients. I want to become a physician who is compassionate, humble, loving, honest, respect, understanding and etc (displayed in the table). The richness of the table is not the table itself, but the combination of all the elements as a whole. Though the journey of a physician may become challenging, stressful, and life changing, I would like to maintain these values in my heart 
and use them as a guidance in my practice.'