Dr. Arnold Gold was a pediatric neurologist whose love and respect for the sick children he treated led to a revolution in the way doctors treat patients.
Born on his uncle’s dining room table in New York City in 1925, Arnold enlisted in the US Navy as soon as he turned 17. After World War II ended, Dr. Gold attended college and medical school, then went into the new field of child neurology.
Arnold's warm smile and deep empathy for others made him well-suited for treating seriously ill children and comforting their families. He was famous for his Superman lab coat and unique gift of making even the sickest kids feel at ease.
In the 1970’s and 80’s, hi-tech imaging scans and other medical advances came into widespread use. Arnold was concerned that medical students and doctors were becoming disconnected from the patients themselves. Looking at a scan should not replace looking a patient in the face. Determined to change medical school culture to focus on patient care, Arnold created the Arnold P. Gold Foundation with his wife Dr. Sandra Gold in 1988.
The Gold Foundation’s motto is “Keeping Healthcare Human” and its mission is to help healthcare professionals provide compassionate, collaborative, and scientifically excellent care. Since the Gold Foundation’s creation thirty years ago, medical school culture has changed significantly. There is now much greater emphasis on treating patients with compassion and dignity.
In 1993 Arnold created the White Coat ceremony, where first-year medical students get their totemic coats, and more importantly, a lesson in the vital importance of kindness. Today, nearly all accredited medical schools in the U.S. hold White Coat ceremonies. At one White Coat ceremony Arnold told young medical students, “If a child cries during an examination, then it is a failure. It is your job to see that child doesn’t cry.” He taught his students to be “fluent in the language of compassion.”
Patients and their families adored Arnold. Many of them kept in touch with their beloved doctor for decades. Arnold was an internationally recognized expert in his field, and published several books and many articles. He was a board member and supporter of many charitable organizations. Most importantly, he made a difference in the lives of thousands of children and their families.
Dr. Arnold Gold died on January 23, 2018 at age 92.
For devoting his life to healing sick children, and changing medical culture to focus on compassionate care, we honor Dr. Arnold Gold as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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