Ellen O’Keefe was at the MGH Institute’s Dr. Charles A. and Ann Sanders IMPACT Practice Center, receiving her weekly physical therapy care in the Marjorie K. Ionta PT Center for Clinical Education and Health Promotion, when Jon LaPook walked into the room and asked if he could observe the session.
Dr. LaPook, the CBS News chief medical correspondent, pulled up a chair next to O’Keefe. Giving her his undivided attention, LaPook asked the Charlestown resident a series of questions about the care she was getting from students Kamaria Washington and Vinson Chen, both of whom were being overseen by clinical instructor Katie MacDonald of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
“I’m a lot better than when I first starting coming here five years ago,” said O’Keefe, who had a stroke that has limited her physical activities. “It’s the highlight of my week, and I look forward to coming.”
LaPook shared that interaction a couple of hours later to the large audience that had come to the MGH Institute’s campus on October 3 for “Making an Impact – the IHP Today,” the school’s annual fundraiser that garnered $439,200 to support student scholarships, $165,000 of which was provided via the Kay Bander Matching program.
“We talk about listening to the patient all the time, and I could see that the students were doing that as they worked with her,” LaPook said. “The way you’re teaching health care is the right way.”
The importance of listening to patients is a passion of LaPook, who founded the NYU Langone Empathy Project in part because of a poor interaction his father had with a physician. Over the past several years, LaPook and a team of leaders in medicine, entertainment, business, journalism, and the arts have produced a series of videos intended to train more humane and effective health care providers and promote a culture of empathy in medicine.
LaPook, who is a professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and an internist and gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Health, told the gathering he learned his listening skills as a medical intern, taking the advice of the hospital’s head nurse and read a voluminous nursing textbook (“It must have been 1,000 pages,” he recalled) so he would better understand how nurses provide care. More than 30 years later, he gives similar advice to interns under his watch. “When a nurse calls you at 3 a.m. and says the patient doesn’t look good, that’s the end of the discussion,” he said. “The nurses know what’s going on.”
John Paul (JP) Bonadonna is a scholarship recipient who will graduate in 2021 with a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree. Bonadonna, who is vice president of the Student Government Association, spoke of his advocacy for improving diversity in the health professions both on and off campus.
“Research shows that students from underserved communities tend to go back to their communities, and when patients have someone with the same background treating them, health outcomes improve significantly,” said Bonadonna, who plans to work in inpatient neurology before eventually returning to the Institute to earn his PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences. “That is a key reason why these scholarships are so important and truly make a difference. If we effectively recruit students and provide them with the resources to succeed, the IHP can become part of the solution to reduce health disparities across the nation.”
During the evening, video screens showcased the Institute’s research, the new Center for Climate Change, Climate Health, and Justice, the growing collaboration with Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown, and the benefits students receive from global educational experiences.