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Release: March 21, 2000

UI medical student wins Gold Foundation Essay Contest

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa College of Medicine student has won first prize in a national competition for the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Essay Contest.

Karl Kirby, a third-year medical student, was selected over 285 other entrants with his essay titled, "Learning to Care: Lessons from India." The essay was published on "The Big Picture" Web site maintained by the Gold Foundation. Kirby received a $2,000 prize.

Kirby, who wrote about his experiences and observations during a two-year trip to India, was surprised by his win.

"I was shocked and ecstatic when I found out," he said. "I don't consider myself a great writer and I was agonizing over this essay. It's nice to feel like these experiences, which were so powerful to me, were also meaningful to others."

The essay contest invited written pieces centering on the themes of what makes a "good" doctor and what the barriers are to humanism in medicine today. The "Big Picture" Web site that featured the essays of the top contestants provides stories, poems and essays by writers in the field of medicine to inspire and encourage students and physicians.

The contest is one of many programs sponsored by the Gold Foundation, an organization that encourages compassion in medical practice and education. Formed in 1988, the foundation is widely known for the creation of the "White Coat Ceremony," a practice where new medical students receive their physician's coats and, in some cases, recite the Hippocratic oath. The UI is one of 80 schools in America and Israel that holds this ceremony.

In his essay, Kirby described a young medical student in India who worked with little training and scant supplies to help patients. Kirby also recalled witnessing a grisly accident where he could not bring himself to help. The two experiences have held special meaning during Kirby's education.

"Remembering these experiences helps me focus on why I want to be a physician," he said. "These moments have definitely helped define the type of doctor I want to be. Also, they directly influenced my future plans. I'm interested in international medicine and providing better health care to underserved areas."

Kirby plans to help care for patients in Malawi, Africa this May with the support of a Barry Freeman Memorial Fellowship.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.