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Medical Students Thank Legacy Teachers

MU’s unique program celebrates patients’ role in teaching future physicians

The University of Missouri School of Medicine celebrated the important role that patients and their families play in the education of medical students with its 10th annual Legacy Teachers luncheon on April 17 in MU’s Reynolds Alumni Center.

The Legacy Teachers™ Program, which culminates with the luncheon, invites third-year medical students to submit essays, artwork or poetry describing the patient they recognized as one of their greatest teachers. Patients and their families are invited to the luncheon, where medical students honor their Legacy Teacher. An MU original program, it was started under the leadership of Betsy Garrett, MD, and Linda Headrick, MD, and their colleagues. This year, 24 third-year students honored dozens of these special teachers at the luncheon.

The individuals honored are called Legacy Teachers because they have taught their students important lessons that will last throughout the physicians’ careers and positively affect future patients, creating a powerful legacy for generations to come.

“The Legacy Teachers™ Program provides a way for students to thank and honor these very special teachers,” said Linda Headrick, MD, senior associate dean for education at the MU School of Medicine. “It helps students learn to reflect on their experiences and develop a better appreciation for patient-centered care.”

The ability to deliver effective patient-centered care is a hallmark of MU’s medical school. It is one of the eight key characteristics MU faculty emphasize to students to achieve excellence in during training and practice. This care includes respect for individual patient values, preferences and needs, as well as shared decision-making and active patient participation.

“The program is one of the ways we ensure that our graduates’ care will be marked by compassion, empathy and patient advocacy,” said Betsy Garrett, MD, the William C. Allen Professor in Family and Community Medicine and the program’s foremost champion and organizer. “During the process of caring for others, our students learn a great deal about themselves and the type of physicians they will become.”

The University of Missouri School of Medicine created the Legacy Teachers™ Program in 2005 to recognize that patients are among the best and most memorable teachers for physicians. With the program well established at MU, efforts are underway to expand the program to other medical schools.

Representatives from several schools, including Case Western Reserve University, Tufts University, University of Kansas — Wichita and University of North Carolina, joined MU faculty, staff, students, patients and their families to experience the event. Following the luncheon, the group met with MU’s organizers to discuss implementing the Legacy Teachers™ program at their own medical schools.

“The program has a great impact on our medical students’ understanding of the doctor-patient relationship,” Garrett said. “Now, the goal is to share the lessons we’ve learned during the past 10 years and expand the program to other medical schools. We’re excited to spread the word about Legacy Teachers and hope that one day patients will be celebrated as the tremendous teachers they are in every medical school in the country.”


The important role that patients and their families play in the education of medical students was celebrated April 16 at the MU School of Medicine’s 10th annual Legacy Teachers luncheon. Medical school student Emily Milford, left, dined with her Legacy Teacher, Tim Swanigan of Columbia.

Medical student Sara McElroy with Legacy Teacher Sue McCormick and her husband, Bob McCormick, of Columbia

Medical student Kristen Allcorn with Legacy Teacher Cynthia Wright of California, Missouri

Download Legacy Teachers luncheon photos (8MB, .zip)

Posted April 20, 2015

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