April 20, 2024
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Englewood Dynamo Strives to Make the World a Better Place

“I’m a problem solver,” says Dr. Sandra Gold. The En­glewood resident, mother of five and grandmother of 13 is a dynamo, having moved from a career in education to a joint venture with her husband that is humanizing healthcare wherever she gains a foothold!

Sandra has always helped people. Her first career was as an elementary school teacher in Highland Park. On her first day one of her stu­dents tried to test her mettle. She used her hu­mor to stand up to the would-be troublemak­er. Once he saw she would not be intimidated, he knew his school year would be different. Shortly thereafter, Sandra realized the student could not read. By the end of the school year, he was reading and had come to appreciate his teacher.

Sandra later went on to teach what she had trained for: high school English. How­ever, she was not trained for counseling students, which she soon discovered was part of her job. Ultimately, she went back to school and earned a doctorate in coun­seling from Rutgers. She says of her years working in schools, “I loved every minute of it.” When she and her husband, pedi­atric neurologist Dr. Arnold Gold, started their family, she became a stay at home mom.

In 1968, the Gold family moved to En­glewood. They chose Englewood because Dr. Gold was affiliated with Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and his wife said, “He wanted to be able to get to the hospi­tal in the middle of the night in case one of the residents called him about a pa­tient.”

After overhearing residents on rounds refer to a patient, “as the tumor in room 207,” Dr. Arnold Gold realized concern for individual patients was evaporating. So he, Sandra and several other residents of Bergen County, established the Arnold P. Gold Foundation (http://humanism-in-medicine.org/), whose mission is to work with “healthcare professionals to ensure that compassion, respect, and empathy are at the core of all healthcare interac­tions.”

Sandra says of the foundation, “We need­ed to be agents of change.” The challenge was how to make those changes. After much thought and consideration, they created a se­ries of programs including the White Coat Cer­emony, a form of ritual that takes place when students enter medical school. “We wanted to create a ritual to set clear expectations—that medical school was about caring and invest­ing in the health and well-being of patients as well as learning the science. Both aspects are equally important,” said Sandra.

The White Coat Ceremony began in 1993 with one medical school participat­ing: Columbia. (Sandra noted that all of the foundation’s signature programs have begun at Columbia). To entice more medi­cal schools into the program, participating schools receive grants of up to $5,000 dur­ing the first year they hold the White Coat ceremony. Today, the White Coat Ceremo­ny takes place in 96% of American medi­cal schools as well as in schools in several countries abroad, including Israel.

The White Coat Ceremony, usually occurs after the first week of medical school and has five suggested components. Parents and fac­ulty serve as witnesses to the event. The fu­ture doctors have their first white coat phys­ically placed upon them. The dean delivers remarks about caring for patients and well as excellence in their scientific endeavors. The future doctors repeat a pledge about a doc­tor’s expected behavior.

Sandra truly believes that doctors have, “a yearning in their hearts to do the right thing for patients.” However, the 1970’s be­gan a technical revolution (which contin­ues today) and there was great advance­ment in the field of medicine. Sandra says, “Many doctors became enamored with new methods and the patient faded from being the center of each health care inter­action.”

In addition to the new explosion of technology, a greater emphasis was be­ing placed on cost. It was imperative for the bottom line that doctors and hospitals see more patients. Inevitably, patients and their individual needs were given less at­tention.

One way the Arnold P. Gold foundation is combatting this is through its Research Insti­tute. The institute’s “mission is to discover and disseminate the hard data and knowledge about how humanizing medicine improves health and the human condition.” Through the institute’s own studies as well as those it has funded, it has been found that, “when doctors practice humanistically there are few­er errors, better diagnosis, fewer lawsuits that are frivolous, and fewer readmissions to hos­pitals.”

One of the other many programs the foundation established was The Gold Hu­manism Honor Society which began in 2002. It recognizes medical students and faculty who practice patient-centered care. Today there are over 100 medical schools and 15 medical centers that have chapters with an overall membership of nearly 20,000.

Clearly, Sandra has a passion for the practice of humanism in medicine. An­other passion of hers is her communi­ty. Sandra has served on the board, been president of, or founded a number of non-profits in the area. These include the JCC on the Palisades, Jewish Home at Rock­leigh, JCC Thurnauer School of Music, and The Jewish Association for the Develop­mentally Disabled.

Sandra believes Bergen County is a splendid place to live. She says, “If some­one wants to make the world a better place—tikkun olam—you’ll find the op­portunity to do that here. It’s a special place.”

Sandra has certainly taken that op­portunity and has lived her life striving to make the world a better place.

Larry D. Bernstein, a Bergen County Resident, is a free­lance writer, tutor, and English teacher. You can find more of his writing on his website: larrydbernstein. com.

By Larry D. Bernstein

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