Teaching in a Jesuit School of Medicine

Posted in GUMC Stories

This article was originally published in Georgetown Medicine Magazine, Fall/Winter 2015 Issue.

NOV. 10, 2015–As a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine and as a past resident and current faculty member at the same institution, I feel a strong sense of loyalty. It has been a privilege to learn, train and teach at this Jesuit center. There is something special in the halls, in the classrooms, and at the bedside that is an unspoken inspiration as we care for our patients. 

Although our student and faculty populations are religiously diverse, the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis is real on our campus. The students and faculty have a commitment to caring for the whole person; that commitment extends to our care of each other and our community. Our students want to make a difference in the lives of the patients they treat. As a Catholic institution, there are symbols of Catholicism in the classrooms and throughout the hospital, serving as reminders of our spirituality, regardless of religious preference, and of our commitment to put others ahead of ourselves. 

As a professor of pathology in the School of Medicine, I am fortunate to teach students throughout their four years of training. Often our students share their reasons for choosing Georgetown University School of Medicine: the emphasis on social justice, a sense of advocacy and a higher purpose of serving those less fortunate. These are core to our mission at Georgetown, evident in both the preclinical and clinical years. Even in the lecture hall, altruism and dedication to a humanistic medical education fosters responsible stewardship in practice. 

At Georgetown, our students seek service-oriented opportunities. They are required to complete 20 hours of community service; however many far exceed that number. Eager to learn and apply their knowledge through experience, students reach out to the community in a variety of ways through our medical curriculum, beginning in the first year with service learning. The course encourages “students to work directly with medically underserved people in the community, forming relationships with community partners and being exposed to culturally sensitive issues.”

Participation in the student-driven, free Hoya Clinic, extending health care to the area’s underserved population, has been a truly rewarding experience for our students. The School of Medicine’s Health Justice Scholar’s Tract is a unique longitudinal program that provides opportunities throughout the four years of training for those who are interested in health rights. Students not only see patients in all parts of our city, but they also study how to improve care through research, reflection and scholarship.

These are just some of the ways that our students get involved and demonstrate their desire to go beyond the classroom and engage with our communities. There is so much more that happens on a daily basis as students take the time to listen, share, diagnose and treat their patients. Our community values human life and human dignity. We believe in the Jesuit principle that every patient—with his or her own challenges—deserves individualized attention and respect, and we strive to work together to care for that patient.

Mary A. Furlong is professor in the Department of Pathology and director of medical education at the medical school and at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. After graduating from the School of Medicine in 1995, she stayed to complete her anatomic and clinical pathology residency at Georgetown. The beloved researcher, physician, professor and mentor has received four Golden Apple Awards from her students for “outstanding professional and personal qualities that enhance medical education” during her 15 years teaching at her alma mater.