New center launches with goal of elevated ‘culture of professionalism’

The Center for Professionalism in Medicine, a priority for Dr. Paul Klotman since he became president and CEO of BCM, is now getting off the ground under the leadership of Dr. Ellen Friedman.

Friedman, professor of otolaryngology, started in her new role in mid-October.

“Dr. Klotman recognizes how important it is to value professionalism throughout the College,” Friedman said. “Our goal through the center is to nurture professionalism and provide a service so that we can elevate the culture of professionalism to an even higher level.” Professionalism encompasses compassion, dedication to quality, ethics, respect, sensitivity, effective communication, listening skills and more.

One way the Center will do this is through the creation of an award program called the Power of Professionalism, or POP, for medical students, residents, fellows, faculty and basic scientists. They will be awarded on a monthly basis and will be formally presented at a small ceremony.

Dr. Ellen Friedman and Andrea Croft

Dr. Ellen Friedman and Andrea Croft

Nominations can be made by anyone from the BCM community, including patients. The nomination process will be a simple one, Friedman emphasized, requiring just one brief paragraph describing the act or acts of professionalism observed. Professionalism encompasses compassion, dedication to quality, ethics, respect, sensitivity, effective communication, listening skills and more.

“It’s important to acknowledge that people are doing their best all the time and to recognize the acts of professionalism and humanism that are going on every day,” Friedman said.

She also hopes to regularly host speakers who will talk on issues that help support the goals of the Center. The first such talk will be held Jan. 23 in conjunction with the department of radiology featuring Dr. Richard Gunderman, professor at Indiana University and a renowned educator. He will give three talks geared toward different BCM audiences:

  • 7 a.m., M112, for program and assistant program directors, clerkship directors and educators, “What is Professionalism? How Can We Teach It and How Can We Assess It?”
  • Noon, McMillan Auditorium, for students, “Professionalism and Leadership”
  • 4 p.m., M321, for faculty, “Lessons in Professionalism from America’s Most Admired Physician”

Meanwhile, another function of the Center for Professionalism will be to address lapses in professionalism that occur.  “The goal is to develop a consistent, fair and transparent system to assess lapses in professionalism,” she said. A committee is being established to review complaints and recommend and implement remediation and/or intervention.

Friedman emphasized that the Center for Professionalism has an open door policy. Drop-ins are welcome in room 206A in the main Cullen building at BCM. Suggestions and other ideas related to professionalism can be sent by email to professionalismmatters@bcm.edu, and award nomination forms also can be obtained via email. The Center can be reached by phone at 713-798-4553. Look for its website to be launched soon.

Other key members of the Center for Professionalism in Medicine are Andrea Croft, senior administrative assistant, and James Banfield, director of risk management at BCM, whose legal expertise, supportive approach and experience in related areas are critical to the success of the mission for the Center. His understanding of complex issues as well as a demonstrated determination to create solutions that are fair and to balance the interests of all concerned make his role essential to this group, Friedman noted.

The chief of pediatric otolaryngology at Texas Children’s Hospital for many years, Friedman has now stepped down from that role to focus on her new position in the Center for Professionalism while also continuing her clinical responsibilities. She said the ideals of professionalism are something she’s always tried to model in her career. In 2010, she received the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award for Practicing Doctors, and that heightened her interest in humanism and professionalism in medicine.

“This role gives me the chance to focus on something I feel is really important. I’m looking forward to being a part of an initiative that can make a positive difference,” she said.