nurse comforting older patient

Finding purpose through serving others

Fourth-year medical student Jaqueline Stoutin shares her unique medical school journey as a mom and student representative
August 30, 2021

The Texas A&M College of Medicine is celebrating the 2021 Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) inductees by highlighting their medical school journeys and sharing their compassion for serving others in a humanistic manner.

A medical student, a mom, a clinical educator, a student representative, a future ophthalmologist: these are all phrases that describe fourth-year student Jaqueline Stoutin and the unique perspective she brings to the Texas A&M University College of Medicine.

Stoutin was recently selected as an inductee to the College of Medicine chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, a national organization that recognizes individuals who epitomize compassion in the clinical setting.

The Gold Humanism Honor Society was founded in 2002 and has more than 160 chapters in medical school and residency programs. More than 35,000 medical students, physicians and other professionals have been inducted into the society. These inductees serve as leaders in delivering care with empathy, compassion, altruism and honesty to patients and their families. Stoutin’s time at the College of Medicine exemplifies why she is deserving of this honorary distinction.

Changing direction

Graduating from the University of Chicago in 2013 with a degree in psychology, the thought of going to medical school originally never crossed Stoutin’s mind. Throughout college, she had her mind set on pursuing a career that involved decision-making psychology, and once she graduated, she utilized her degree toward a career in sales and marketing.

“After being in the workforce for a few years, I didn’t really feel fulfilled in the career path I ended up taking,” Stoutin said. “I wanted something that could directly contribute and improve the lives of many people. So, I started looking into other fields, and I ended up shadowing a family medicine physician who practiced in rural jails.”

For Stoutin, that was the transforming moment that led her to look at pursuing a career in medicine.

“Seeing the impact that the physician had on her patients while being extremely kind, compassionate and knowledgeable was so inspiring,” Stoutin said. “I’ll always remember when a female inmate just wanted to know how much she weighed, but there were no scales in the jail, so the physician set up an opportunity for her to weigh herself using the kitchen scale. Just seeing her make those small connections and be an advocate for her patients is what drew me to medicine; you can make a big difference in so many peoples’ lives.”

Passion for clinical education

After relocating to Texas with her husband and finishing her prerequisites, she entered medical school at the Texas A&M College of Medicine in 2018.

During her time at the College of Medicine, Stoutin became heavily involved in her position as student representative to the curriculum committee, a student-elected position that only one medical student per class year holds. The curriculum committee is tasked with all aspects of the academic medical program of the college, including leading, directing, coordinating, controlling, planning, evaluating and reporting on the curriculum leading to the Doctor of Medicine degree.

As student representative, Stoutin is responsible for representing the voices of the students in her class and is tasked with coming up with new ideas and proposing changes to the curriculum.

“In any discussions, I represent the student voice and perspective and try to make sure that the curriculum is moving forward in a way that benefits my class and future classes, which I have found to be extremely rewarding,” Stoutin said. “I love being a part of the curriculum committee and I hope to be a clinical educator and be involved in academic medicine as I move forward; it’s a really important part of my future that I discovered through this role.”

Being a mom

In addition to chasing her dream as a physician, Stoutin has been able to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother during her time at the College of Medicine. She had her son a year prior to medical school and gave birth to her daughter during her first year of medical school.

“I have loved having my husband and my kids during med school because they definitely put things into perspective,” Stoutin said “In medical school, we’re trying to be the best we can be, we want to get questions right, we want to do everything as well as we possibly can. Some days we fall short, and that’s really hard so it’s great to go home and get a hug from a 4-year-old because he loves me and doesn’t care at all what I did at work or at school. Having that unconditional love throughout medical school is so powerful and so encouraging.”

Stoutin believes that being a mother and a wife while being a student can bring a new perspective to delivering compassionate and humanistic patient care.

“Having my family has given me this drive to see patients for their whole story,” Stoutin said. “Since I am a mom and a medical student, I’m more complex than I might appear when you first meet me, and it’s a really good reminder when you meet a patient that there’s so much more to them than what they come in for. Their spouse is with them, their son is with them—this person is not just a patient. There’s a big rich story, and they mean so much to someone else, and as physicians, we need to recognize and respect that, and I think my family is a good reminder of that.”

Looking to the future

Currently, Stoutin is applying for residencies in ophthalmology, a specialty that stood out to her because it is high impact, and the physician-patient relationship involves shared decision making.

“In ophthalmology, you see people in clinic every day and you do surgeries, and I like that mix, but what really inspired me is that the surgeries—for the most part—are elective,” Stoutin said. “It’s all based on what the patient wants and what the patients tells you, and I love that shared decision making; it’s like you’re on a team with the patient. And in one day, you can take someone from not seeing to seeing, and it is the most fulfilling experience to have them come back in and say, ‘I can see for the first time in 10 years.’”

Despite the big change from medical school to residency, Stoutin already feels prepared to take the next step.

“As long as you’re committed to learning and putting in the work, you just get a little bit better every day, and it’s wild to me that I feel ready to be an intern next year and to have a job and move on to the next thing,” Stoutin said. “It’s a credit to Texas A&M and its professors and staff that I feel ready to be in the hospitals and clinics next year. I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I get to be a doctor next year; it feels like a gift.”

Stoutin also feels that the College of Medicine has given her the opportunity to cultivate and explore her interests with open arms.

“I love that the College of Medicine give us the initiative and freedom to find our niche within medicine,” Stoutin said. “We are exposed to a lot of different things in medical school, and when you find something you love and you come up with an idea they’re just like ‘yes let’s do it, let’s make it happen.’ I’ve been lucky enough to be able to create electives, teach classes, create mentoring programs, and with every idea I’ve had, they’ve given me their fullest support.”

Practicing humanism

When Stoutin found out she was a GHHS inductee, she felt a sense of honor and gratitude for the classmates and faculty who nominated her, and she saw the distinction as a call to action to create a bigger change and impact to serve others.

“I respect everyone in my class so much, and we’ve all really had an outward focus toward our community and helping others and trying to pour into the people around us,” Stoutin said. “I think it’s a responsibility when someone sees potential in you and gives you a stage to operate on. Now, it’s on us inductees to make the most of it. We’ve been inducted because of what we’ve done in the past, but that means now we must capitalize on this and come together as a chapter of GHHS and move it forward and create a bigger impact and try to help even more people through service and community outreach.”

To Stoutin, the idea of bringing humanism to the field of medicine comes down to two phrases.

Stoutin says that physicians should “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” In other words, physicians should be able to bring their full selves to the patient and be fully empathetic to what they are going through. “Whatever the patient needs, you want to be able to be in the room with them, and not shut down or be uncomfortable or step back. You want to lean into the process that they’re going through.”

Stoutin also believes that when you walk into a room you should “be in the room where your feet are.” Stoutin says that you want to be able to give 100 percent of your attention to them, even though you could be juggling the needs of many other patients. “I think that’s a really important skill that slips if you’re not intentional and aware of it. It’s hard sometimes to suppress all the other stuff that’s going on but that’s one of the most important things that I think humanism in medicine is all about, and something I try to practice every day.”

With her knowledge and intentionality to deliver compassionate patient care to the fullest, Stoutin exemplifies what it means to be an inductee of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. “I truly believe when I reflect on my life 40 years from now, I think I will have done a genuine good for my community by using my life in this fashion, and I’m so grateful to have pursued something as fulfilling as this profession.”

— Gracie Blackwell

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