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This is a time when we need to affirm our values and stand up to injustice.

Oct. 29, 2020

Here is a reminder that kindness is an antidote for the anxiety we feel in uncertain times. Our own Steven J. Scheinman, MD, president and dean of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, shared this message with the GCSOM community on Oct. 27. Enjoy!

“Even were GCSOM not such a young school, I would wager that no period in our history would have rivaled this year’s tumult and stress. If you personally feel anxious and adrift, I urge you to switch your lens and try to gauge current events and your reactions to them recalling your deeply influential role teaching and supporting future healthcare providers.

Education at our school is grounded in Geisinger values, chief of among them being kindness. Kindness is a much deeper and richer attribute than simply being “nice.” Kindness consists of remembering and reaching out to one another in the spirit of inclusivity and concern. It means tempering your reactions by acknowledging that everyone with whom you interact is coping with some degree of strain caused by pandemic isolation and at times what seem to be continually chaotic national conversations. Above all, kindness means recognizing that, while you can’t control the actions of others, you can and must control your own. You can choose each day to model active listening, respect for all people and care for the marginalized. You can choose to change the world one interaction at a time as you demonstrate kindness in each exchange with colleagues and patients, even those with whom you disagree. As a teacher and role model for future healthcare providers, what you say and what you do will carry great weight. Today you can decide how you will use that platform.

This is not to say that kindness is a solitary activity. Your ability to remain kind is utterly dependent upon having other kind people upon whom to rely. That’s why, as a community, we must come together to support one another, especially colleagues and students struggling to feel valued and included. A community thus supported produces individuals who can be kind in the workplace, in the classroom and in the clinic. Then, as you model your values, you have the power to influence individuals, even entire communities.

This persuasive power is one reason the need to be kind can be found in many of the oaths to which doctors swear and to which all healthcare providers subscribe. The GCSOM commencement oath includes an obligation to “admit mistakes, make amends, and forgive others in acknowledgement of our common humanity.” This is what we are all called to model, every day. Let us begin with kindness towards each other that will in turn inspire us to be models for our neighbors, our colleagues, our patients and our communities.”