In Memoriam: Arnold P. Gold

St. George’s University School of Medicine held its annual Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) Induction Ceremony in New York City in June 2017. The newly inducted medical students were recognized for exemplary humanistic and altruistic efforts demonstrated throughout their medical education.

Dr. Arnold P. Gold encouraged all the aspiring physicians with whom he connected to strive to achieve the “gold standard of health care”—compassion, collaboration, and excellence in medicine—goals that St. George’s University has for its students as well.

The father of the White Coat Ceremony and ambassador for humanistic patient care, Dr. Gold passed away on January 23, 2018, at the age of 92. His presence will be sorely missed in the medical community, yet his values will continue to be preached around the world, including at SGU, where they are part of the fabric of the University’s mission and spirit.

“Dr. Arnold P. Gold holds a very special place in American medicine,” said Dr. John Cush, MD SGU ’81, Director of Clinical Rheumatology at Baylor Scott & White Health in Texas. “At a time when the science and technology of medicine was changing most, he put his efforts on reminding educators and trainees alike that humanism was as important as the science.”

“Dr. Gold was a true role model for any physician who practices medicine, and he and his wife, Sandra, are true embodiments for care, compassion, and kindness to the nth degree,” added Dr. Vishnu Rao, Dean of Students at St. George’s University, who grew fond of Dr. Gold and his family at the annual Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) meetings, calling him “the most respected of all individuals.”

The St. George’s University community is reminded of Dr. Gold’s influence at the bi-annual White Coat Ceremonies, which mark a first-term student’s official entry into the medical or veterinary medical profession. Dr. Gold ushered in the first-ever White Coat Ceremony in the United States in 1993 at Columbia University. It debuted at St. George’s University School of Medicine on the Grand Anse campus in August 1996, with Dr. Ben Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital—and future US presidential candidate—delivering the keynote speech. The School of Veterinary Medicine began holding White Coat Ceremonies for Term 1 students six years later.

“His efforts to introduce medical students to the guild of medicine with an honor of a ‘white coat ceremony’ will forever be remembered by thousands of physicians who will trace their beginnings back to the ritual and ceremony he created,” Dr. Cush said.

Dr. Gold’s contribution to SGU came full circle in January 2005 when both Arnold and Sandra Gold delivered the SOM White Coat Ceremony address at Patrick Adams Hall in True Blue. Dr. Cheryl Cox Macpherson, Professor and Chair of SGU’s Department of Bioethics, worked with the Golds to introduce the White Coat Ceremonies at SGU.

“Dr. Gold was always incredibly attentive and interactive with individuals, and he loved talking to students,” she said. “He was very accepting and had a way of making people relax and be themselves.”

Dr. Gold emitted this warmth during his own career as a world-renowned pediatric neurologist. He was the “quintessential clinician” according to Dr. Lee Goldman, Chief Executive at Columbia University, where Dr. Gold practiced and taught for more than 50 years.

His impact stretched far beyond the city limits however. In 1988, he co-founded the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that empowers medical students and doctors to sustain a human connection with their patients. Such care was the basis for launching the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS), which recognizes senior medical students for their humanistic and altruistic efforts during medical education.

In 2005, Dr. Cush worked with the foundation to establish a St. George’s University chapter of the GHHS. The first class of 13 nominees were recognized in 2006, and since then, several hundred SGU students have earned the distinction.

“The Arnold P. Gold Humanism Honor Society awards have been incorporated into most medical schools, and honors those medical students who devote themselves to serving patients, public health, and causes not usually required by the curriculum,” Dr. Cush said. “His loss is a grand opportunity to extol his contributions to medicine, such that they can be emulated by other mentors and those who benefitted from his influence.”

Dr. Gold’s compassion in medicine extended across a wide spectrum, including religion. While visiting Grenada in the mid 2000s, Dr. Gold and his wife welcomed an international panel of SGU students to a cultural competency symposium, at which each shared how their belief and faith systems apply to medicine.

“Promoting humanism in medicine is immensely important,” said Dr. Cox Macpherson. “As much as we are providing students with the knowledge and skills to be successful physicians, we are instilling the elements of compassion, respect, and empathy that are inextricably linked with health care.”

– Brett Mauser