Tiny Hearts Teach Students to Think With Their Hearts

12/10/03    Portland, Ore.

MEDIA ADVISORY: On Friday, Dec. 12 at 1:30 p.m., in James Templeton Elementary, 9500 S.W. Murdock, Tigard, students will give OHSU physicians and medical students 360 little, felt "feely hearts." The young students helped make them for OHSU medical students to remind them to use their hearts when healing.

Karen Adams, M.D., reaches in her pocket. Her hand fiddles with a little two-inch stuffed felt "feely" heart. The heart is a little lopsided. "But I like it that way. We all carry around our own baggage in our hearts: the bruises, and the joys. We are all a little different, like this heart," said Adams, assistant professor and residency program director of obstetrics and gynecology, Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine.

The heart is one of many in the pockets of OHSU medical students and physicians thanks to an elective class for first-and second-year students that Adams co-directs called The Healer's Art. Molly Osborne, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, OHSU School of Medicine, is the other director. The course is based on a class that originated at the University of California, San Francisco and is offered at medical schools nationwide.

"We give the feely hearts to students in the class as little reminders of who we are and what got us here in the first place. It's easy to forget. The reason we're here is to be of service and to be of help. It reminds me that it is the work of the heart not the work of the brain to take care of people," she said.

Cody Evans took the class because he wanted to address some of his feelings about being a doctor.

"I wanted to be in a group where we talked about people's feelings rather than solely their illnesses. It proved to be an enriching experience that will remind me of the importance of caring for individuals' emotions when they are ill. After taking the class, I feel more confident in my desire to treat people holistically by paying closer attention to their desires, feelings and other faculties that encompass humanity," said Evans, who is now an adviser in the class.

Adams said the class has been a huge success.

"The evaluations of the class were spectacular. Students tell me, This is why I came to medical school. They stop me on the hospital floor and say, Your class was most important course I've taken so far in medical school. The Healer's Art course helps us to remember that what our patients want and need is our caring as much as our brilliance," Adams said.

To keep enough hearts available for all future students, John Templeton Elementary School in Tigard took on the task last year and this year of making the feely hearts as their community project. About 500 kindergarten through the now sixth graders at Twality Middle School helped in the project, said Pat Thomason, principal. The young students will give 360 hand-stuffed, and hand-sewn little feely hearts to Adams, Osborne and several of the medical student course advisers at a school assembly on Friday, Dec. 12, at 1:30 p.m. at the elementary school.

"You should see all the hearts. Some are perfect, and some aren't, but I think that's what makes them so interesting and special," Thomason said.

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