Frequently Asked Questions


What is The Arnold P. Gold Foundation?

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation works with healthcare professionals to ensure that compassion, respect and empathy are at the core of all healthcare interactions.  The Foundation is a public, 501 [c] [3] not-for-profit organization, established in 1988 by Arnold Gold, MD and Sandra Gold, EdD, their colleagues at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York and philanthropists.  The Foundation relies on donations to advance our vital work. Eighty percent of our annual budget is derived from contributions made by donors like you.

Who is Arnold P. Gold and why did he start a foundation?

Arnold Gold, MD is a world-renowned pediatric neurologist at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He and his wife Sandra Gold, EdD, and their colleagues at Columbia began the Foundation in 1988 with the power of an idea – to nurture and preserve the tradition of the caring physician.

That idea was conceived in response to trend that Dr. Arnold Gold witnessed.  He feared that burgeoning scientific discoveries and advances in technology were shifting the focus of medicine from caring for the whole person to an over-reliance on technology. Physician trainees were scientifically proficient and technically well-trained, but often demonstrated a sad lack of caring and compassion. Arnold decided, with Sandra’s help, to do something about it.

What is humanism in health care?

Humanism in health care is characterized by a respectful and compassionate relationship between physicians, as well as all other members of the healthcare team, and their patients. It reflects attitudes and behaviors that are sensitive to the values and the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of others. The humanistic healthcare professional demonstrates the following attributes (“I.E., C.A.R.E.S.”):

  • Integrity: the congruence between expressed values and behavior
  • Excellence: clinical expertise
  • Compassion: the awareness and acknowledgement of the suffering of another and the desire to relieve it
  • Altruism: the capacity to put the needs and interests of another before your own
  • Respect: the regard for the autonomy and values of another person
  • Empathy: the ability to put oneself in another’s situation, e.g., physician as patient
  • Service: the sharing of one’s talent, time and resources with those in need; giving beyond what is required.

Why is humanistic and compassionate care important?

Scientific evidence demonstrates that compassion and empathy are critical components of good medicine. When healthcare professionals give humanistic care, patients are more likely to adhere to their medical orders, which results in better health outcomes. When patients engage in preventive healthcare practices and heal more quickly, it results in cost-savings to the healthcare system.

How do you create a culture where compassion, respect, and empathy are at the core of health care?

The work begins with the training of healthcare professionals, where The Foundation supports efforts to spread the habit of humanism. Our strategies are to:

  • establish clear expectations and standards for trainees early in the educational process;
  • identify, reward and promote exemplary role models/mentors;
  • provide experiences and opportunities for healthcare professionals to understand the patient perspective and to reflect on their role as caregivers.

How widely are The Foundation’s programs adopted?

Here are a few examples of the reach of The Foundation’s work:

  • Approximately 1,500 individuals have received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, instituted to recognize exemplary faculty and graduating medical students.
  • The White Coat Ceremony was initiated by the Foundation to welcome new students into the medical profession and to set clear expectations regarding their primary role as physicians by professing an oath. It is now a traditional rite of passage at 97% of medical schools in the United States and Canada as well as in 13 other countries.
  • The Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) is comprised of over 18,000 healthcare professionals in training who have been recognized for practicing patient-centered care.

How can I get involved?

There are many ways volunteers can get involved in the work of The Foundation.  See our Get Involved page to learn about opportunities for recognizing the humanistic doctors in your life, hosting an event, writing for our blog, or making a gift.

What directions is the Foundation heading in?

The quickly changing healthcare landscape is filled with new challenges and opportunities, and The Arnold P. Gold Foundation stands ready to meet them. While we continue strengthening our relationships with physicians in training, we are also expanding our work to engage practicing physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other members of the healthcare team in training and in practice. We are involving patients more intimately by promoting and amplifying their voices and educating them about the importance of humanistic healthcare.