Courtesy of UChicago News

The Matthew and Carolyn Bucksbaum Family Foundation is giving $42 million to the University of Chicago to create the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence, a unique initiative that aims to improve the doctor-patient relationship and communication in medicine.

Q: Who are Matthew and Carolyn Bucksbaum?
Matthew Bucksbaum is the former chairman and chief executive officer of General Growth Properties, the country’s second-largest owner, developer, and manager of regional shopping malls. GGP was founded by Matthew Bucksbaum and his brothers Maurice and Martin.

Carolyn Swartz (Kay) Bucksbaum graduated with honors from Grinnell College, where she was editor of the college newspaper. She served as the first woman president of the board of trustees at Grinnell. She now is the chairwoman of the board of the Aspen Music Festival and serves on the boards of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and the National Public Radio Foundation.

Q: Who will lead the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence?
Mark Siegler, the Lindy Bergman Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and director of the University of Chicago’s MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, will serve as the first executive director of the Bucksbaum Institute. A respected physician specializing in internal medicine, Siegler is internationally known for his work in the field of medical ethics. Established in 1984, the MacLean Center quickly became the largest program in clinical ethics in the world. More than 250 physicians and other health professionals have trained at the MacLean Center, many of whom now direct ethics programs in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Siegler, whose research interests include the ethics of surgical innovation, living-donor organ transplantation, end-of-life care, ethics consultation, and decision-making within the doctor-patient relationship, has published more than 200 journal articles, 50 book chapters, and five books. His textbook, Clinical Ethics: A Practical Approach to Ethical Decisions in Clinical Medicine, is widely used by physicians and health professionals around the world.

Siegler’s seminal 1981 paper on “A New Model of the Doctor-Patient Encounter” was cited extensively by the 1982 President’s Commission as the basis for recommending a shared decision-making approach for doctors and patients, now a standard model for the doctor-patient relationship in the United States.

Q: What are the goals of the Bucksbaum Institute?
To improve clinical care by enhancing communication between physicians and their patients. It will support training and career development at three levels — from medical students to junior faculty to senior faculty, who will serve as master clinician role models for the students and junior faculty. The expectation is that physicians who have trained at the Bucksbaum Institute will have a positive impact on patient care at the University of Chicago and other institutions.

What are the primary components of the Bucksbaum Institute?

The Bucksbaum Institute will:

  • Help support three to five new medical students a year as Bucksbaum Student Scholars, assisting them with tuition and fees from the second to the fourth years of medical school. By the program’s third year, a total of nine to 15 Bucksbaum Student Scholars are anticipated.
  • Support two-year appointments for up to four Bucksbaum Faculty Fellows, junior faculty selected for their dedication to patient care, collaborative decision-making, and clinical excellence. They will be encouraged to explore approaches to improving the doctor-patient relationship and how this knowledge may benefit patients and the community. The faculty will serve as mentors for the medical student scholars. A total of eight faculty fellows are anticipated by the third year.
  • Provide substantial funding to recruit one experienced physician-teacher each year to the University who will serve for three years as a Bucksbaum Master Clinician. These practicing physicians will be role models for student scholars and faculty fellows in the delivery of excellent clinical care and skilled doctor-patient communication. By the third year, there will be a total of three Bucksbaum Master Clinicians.

Q: What makes the Bucksbaum Institute important?
Studies have shown that improved doctor-patient communication leads to better outcomes in a variety of cases, including treatment for diabetes, hypertension, peptic ulcers, chronic headaches, and depression. This program should help elevate interest in better patient attention and improve the relationship patients have with their physicians. It also should instill better shared decision- making.

Q: What makes this program different?
Although all medical schools have programs to teach students about the doctor-patient relationship, we are not aware of another program devoted to this topic on the scale of the Bucksbaum Institute. This project will span physician careers, from medical students to early-career faculty to senior “master” clinicians. It also is designed to continue the University of Chicago’s tradition as a teacher of teachers, training leaders in the field by using professional mentors. About 30 percent of physicians educated at the University of Chicago go on to careers at academic medical centers. These scholars will bring the sharp focus on doctor-patient communications with them as they join the faculty of the University of Chicago or other institutions.

Q: How can I learn more about this?
There will be a public announcement at 10 a.m. Sept. 22, in the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Biological Sciences Learning Center, 924 E. 57th St., Room 115. The donors will be in attendance at this special event, which will include a panel discussion, “Strengthening the Doctor-Patient Relationship to Enhance Patient Outcomes.” The panel will feature Dr. Mark Siegler; Holly Humphrey, dean for Medical Education at the University of Chicago; and Rebecca Levine, a fourth-year medical student. Dr. Eric Whitaker, executive vice president for Strategic Affiliations and associate dean for Community-Based Research, will moderate the panel. Refreshments will follow. If you are unable to attend, you may watch a live webcast of the event and read more about the program at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Originally published on September 22, 2011.