Jonathan Weinkle Brings Healing People, Not Patients from His Book to the Classroom

Dr. Jonathan Weinkle, longtime friend of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), achieved a major goal this year with the launch of the course "Healing and Humanity" at the University of Pittsburgh.Offered through the Department of Religious Studies, and designated as a University Honors College class, Healing and Humanity turns Dr. Weinkle's 2018 book, Healing People, Not Patients, into an interactive seminar in relational medicine.

The book, written with generous support from JHF, details how it is possible to operationalize the idea that good medical care must begin with regarding the patient first as an infinitely valuable human being, not as a consumer, a diagnosis, or an appointment on the schedule.

The class challenges students to interpret religious text, engage in ethical and philosophical debate, engage with cutting edge research and individual narrative, and practice essential skills of empathetic listening and compassionate communication.Each student produces a longitudinal project focusing on the illness narrative of one person whom they will interview, culminating in a "change project" for which they will propose a single intervention that could have improved the person's experience or health outcomes.The semester will conclude with the students sharing these projects with JHF staff.

In his role as Medical Director of Chatham University's Masters of Physician Assistant Studies Program, Dr. Weinkle has actually been using the material from the book to train the graduating PA students in these skills since the book was pending publication in 2018.Earlier this year, Chatham expanded this training to include first-year PA students so that they would enter their clinical year already having some of these skills in hand..The Chatham curriculum, which leans heavily on problem-based learning (PBL), is an ideal setting for this training, as students have the opportunity to practice interpersonal skills throughout their first year when they simulate patient interviews and education in their PBL groups.

This is the first time, however, that Dr. Weinkle has offered this material in an undergraduate setting at Pitt and represents a much deeper dive into the background material than the fast pace of a clinical training program permits.The first student cohort is a near-capacity crowd of 34 students from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds planning careers in a variety of professional and scientific fields related to the health sciences, and at least one future writer.

Weinkle said several students cited personal experiences with medical professionals, both heartwarming and disappointing ones, as their motivation for taking the course, and one even named the course listing as a factor in their choosing Pitt to do their pre-med studies.

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