Building Trust Essay Contest Winners Explore Medical Skepticism, Racism, and Personal Connections

October 29, 2022

Trust is integral to the practice of medicine, whether it’s between patients, clinicians, or leadership. On the heels of the pandemic, the act of building trust is ever more critical — finding ways to combat discrimination and mistrust: to bring people together through listening, empathetic observation and honest communication. 

Empowering a next generation of culturally-conscious leaders is central to our mission at AMSA — which is why we were thrilled to team up with the ABIM Foundation, created by the American Board of Internal Medicine, on the Building Trust Essay Contest. Here, medical students were invited to lend thoughts and experiences on building, losing, or restoring trust in a healthcare setting.

AMSA and ABIM received essays that tackled topics like racism, attacks on medical expertise during the pandemic, health equity, and students’ relationships with mentors and faculty. A panel of judges chose four winners:

  • Teva Brender from Oregon Health & Sciences University shared the story of a patient in the ICU whose spouse refused to get the COVID vaccine. Brender’s essay explored the medical community’s role in patient skepticism and what can be done to change it. 
  • Howard Chang from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine discussed the pros and cons of physicians disclosing their own health conditions, drawing on a study he conducted with his mentor and his own experience with chronic pain.
  • Sunil Joshi at Oregon Health & Sciences University wrote about his experience with a patient who made racist remarks to him, but later apologized after Joshi treated him for several weeks and they developed a rapport.
  • Meher Kalkat at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine told how she connected – and even found a source of laughter – with a teenage cancer patient who was frustrated about missing his prom. 

    The judges also awarded honorable mentions to six other students: Clarice Douille, Veenadhari Kollipara, Paul Lewis, Armaan Ahmen Rowther, Suman Vadlamani, and Nicholas Wilson.

    Their essays were also published in the September/October issue of AMSA’s The New Physician magazine and are being showcased on the ABIM website and social media channels.