Madison-Deane Initiative (MDI), an end-of-life education program at the UVM Health Network – Home Health & Hospice, contributes every year to initiatives in the community that support its’ mission to improve end-of-life care through inspiration, education and collaboration. One such initiative is their support of the medical students at the UVM College of Medicine.
One great example of this support is MDI’s annual contribution to UVM College of Medicine’s Reflections Ceremony. This ceremony is a student-run initiative, planned by the second-year medical students for the first-year medical students.
The purpose of this ceremony, which occurs the evening before the first-year students begin their anatomy lab, is to offer the students a space to reflect on their experience and feelings around working with a donor body for the first time.
During the ceremony, second-year students answer anonymous questions raised by the first-year students, addressing various emotions and experiences that come up during the anatomy lab. Additionally, a bell is sounded to offer a moment of reflection. Soup and comfort food is served and often there is reverent live music playing in the background. Then at sundown, the first-year students make their way up to the anatomy lab to meet their donors for the first time.
Every year, MDI supports the students who plan this ceremony. The committee donates palm-size pewter hearts (from Danforth Pewter) to present to the first-year students at the ceremony. An MDI committee member shares that the purpose of the hearts is to remind the students to always bring their hearts when working with patients and to not let the work of medicine through the years harden their hearts.
The pewter hearts and the sentiment behind it have a great impact on the students. One student shared that they sewed their pewter heart into their physician coat as a continual reminder to keep their heart present with patients.
In addition to the ceremony, MDI (along with other generous sponsors) also supports the efforts of The Robert Larner, MD, UVM College of Medicine Palliative Care Student Interest Group to provide an educational series on Palliative Care. The purpose of this series entitled Mondays with Palliative Care is to provide UVM medical students with information on Palliative Care, a field of medicine that is often misunderstood.
These educational talks, take place over the course of four Mondays in the fall during lunchtime at the College of Medicine, and each week has a new topic and presenter. The planning of this event is also student-led with MDI members present to lend a hand serving food to students, setting and cleaning up, and other tasks.
This year’s talks started off with an “Introduction to Palliative Care: Perspectives of Patients and Families,” a panel discussion which included family members whose loved ones had experienced palliative care and was led by Zail Berry, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, The Robert Larner, MD, College of Medicine.
Mary O. Ready, MD, Hospitalist in Palliative Care from Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, presented “Palliative Care in the Rural Vermont Setting,” and Virginia Fry, MA, Bereavement Coordinator, Central VT Home Health & Hospice and Author of Part of Me Died Too – Stories of Creative Survival Among Bereaved Children and Teenagers, presented “Monkey Trap: Helping Children Understand Issues of Life and Death.” The series wrapped up with “Uncertainty in Palliative Care Decision-Making Conversations,” a presentation by Robert Gramling, MD, D.Sc., Holly and Bob Miller Chair of Palliative Medicine, Chief, Division of Palliative Medicine, Dept of Family Medicine, The Robert Larner, MD, College of Medicine.