In an effort to support future physicians, Roger and Carin Ehrenberg have made a $1 million gift to the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine’s Human Dimension program, an initiative aimed at benefiting both medical students and New Jersey communities.
A three-year course, the Human Dimension program provides service-learning experiences and an integrated curriculum for medical students in which they come to understand the many determinants of health, including personal, economic and environmental factors.
Since its start in 2018, 335 students in the program have cared for 257 families in nine communities across five counties, and have taken on 35 community health projects. The program’s 35 faculty members have been integral in the success of the program and in leading another key aspect of it: the Professional Identity Formation curriculum. This training includes reflection, narrative medicine, resilience-building, mindfulness and other skills and activities to support student development as resilient, empathic professionals able to meet the needs of their patients.
Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, the interim dean of Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, said the program has great impact.
“By matching our future physicians to individuals and families from underserved areas, and through interactions over the entire core curriculum, they become involved in all aspects of a family’s life to understand drivers of health outcomes, provide education and navigate community resources,” he said.
The school’s commitment to improving community health has garnered much recognition, including the American Hospital Association’s NOVA award. The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine was one of just five institutions to be recognized.
Roger Ehrenberg said the couple is thrilled to be able to help.
“Carin and I have long believed that medical care needs to take into account the whole individual, not merely reported symptoms,” he said. “This means understanding where and how someone lives, what stressors exist and why, and other physical and psychological forces that drive their behaviors.
“Traditional medical training has given short shrift to context, which often has profound impacts on a patient’s physical and emotional well-being. This is a problem we wanted to address both with respect to training subsequent generations of medical professionals to take these factors into account, but also to develop empathy and perspective by incorporating these kinds of challenges and communities into their medical training and curriculum.”
The gift provided by the Ehrenbergs will cover nearly all annual costs to implement the Human Dimension program for one year, including core faculty and team member positions, a mix of full- and part-time, and include clinical faculty teachers, curriculum development, associate dean supervision and support and operations costs such as interpreter services and community events.
HMH CEO Bob Garrett was thrilled to receive the gift.
“The Human Dimension program is foundational to the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine’s innovative curriculum,’’ he said. “We are grateful for this generous gift, which will help us continue to reinvent medical education to create a physician workforce that will thrive in a new state of health care that focuses as much on prevention as curing illness.’’