UC College of Medicine honors humanism in medical students and faculty

Leonard Tow Humanism award winners recognized during Honors Day

Fourth-year medical student Alexandra Schoenberger and Mia Mallory, MD, associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine who is shown above, have been named recipients of the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.

The honor will be presented during College of Medicine commencement exercises, known as Honors Day, on Sunday, May 23. This award is given to both a faculty member in the college and a graduating medical student in recognition of their demonstrating clinical excellence and outstanding compassion in the delivery of care and for showing respect for patients, their families and health care colleagues.

Schoenberger, co-president of the graduating class of medical students, says humanism isn’t just about what happens at the bedside when a physician is there to support a dying patient.

“Humanism in medicine to me means medicine as it should and is intended to be,” explains Schoenberger. “It means medicine practiced with the patient, not for the patient, and medicine that prioritizes people over politics, over egos and over ‘what has always been done.’ Humanism is finally acknowledging the discrimination inherent in race-based medicine.”

Alexandra Schoenberger

Alexandra Schoenberger. Photo courtesy of Lauren Meisberger, A&S ’15.

“Humanism is risking upsetting the status quo to get our patients comprehensive reproductive health services,” says Schoenberger. “Humanism is not settling for progress that impacts numbers but doesn’t serve people, colleagues and patients alike, regardless of what that requires of us and our systems.”

Schoenberger has been active in several College of Medicine student groups including the Initiative on Poverty, Justice and Health; the American Medical Women’s Association; Medical Students for Choice; the Medical Student Association; the Student Ambassador Program and the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Interest Group. She has also volunteered with various community programs including Stepping Stones, Casa de Paz, Mission Cincinnati and Night to Shine.

Schoenberger will begin her residency training in July at UC in the internal medicine-pediatrics program. 

Mallory, an associate professor of pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center physician, has led the College of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the past eight years. She will be leaving UC in June to take a position leading the pediatric residency program at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.  She joined the UC faculty in 1998.

"Humanism to me is listening to the patient’s story and recognizing how empathy for your patients impacts their health care outcomes," says Mallory.

“Many of our patients and families experience significant hardships from socio-economic stressors to discrimination bias,” explains Mallory. “It is our job to take care of the whole patient. Humanism is also treating the janitor with the same respect and dignity as the CEO. How you treat people matters and everyone is an integral part of the job we do in taking care of patients.”

“Lastly, humanism is activism; the importance of activism and advocacy for our patients and colleagues,” says Mallory. “The events over the last year with racial injustices and the disparities of the effects of the pandemic on communities of color has taken a great toll on the patients we care for including myself and my colleagues who experience bias and racism on many levels. Remember that your patients and colleagues carry another burden beyond inequities in health care.”

Andrew Filak, MD, Christian R. Holmes Professor and dean of the College of Medicine, offered congratulations for Dr. Mallory in an email to college faculty and staff, but noted the college will miss Mallory’s “abundant support for our students, sage counsel, effervescent personality and kind friendship.”

“Dr. Mallory has provided exemplary leadership for our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, building it into a highly respected program,” Filak wrote. “She has been a resolute advocate for our students, providing splendid mentoring and counsel. During her eight years of leading this office, underrepresented minority applications and matriculated students have increased substantially, and we now have 23% of our students identifying as an underrepresented minority, the most diverse student body we have ever had.”

Mallory says the decision to leave UC has been especially tough.

“I am grateful to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine for giving me a voice in many spaces that matter to our students and community,” says Mallory. 

Featured image of Mia Mallory, MD, was taken by Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand.