When her classmates, instructors and patients want to give an example of Elizabeth Prince-Coleman’s compassionate care, there are so many to choose from.
There is the woman who was losing her twin babies as a result of severe preeclampsia and whose hand Prince-Coleman held throughout the delivery and afterward.
There is the homeless psychiatric patient whose family wouldn’t take her, for whom Prince-Coleman called 20 shelters until she found a bed and arranged transportation.
There is the psychiatric patient held in isolation with HIV and a history of drug-resistant bacteria, shunned by many staff members, whom she befriended.
Any one of them might have been good enough, but all of them added up to the physician assistant student’s winning the $25,000 Beard Award for Compassionate Care at Georgia Regents University.
“It’s extremely humbling,” she said, wiping away tears Thursday at the College of Allied Health Sciences Hooding and Honors Ceremony, where her classmates gave her a standing ovation. “It’s a great honor to think that others see me that way and I certainly hope to live up to that.”
Brennen Drake, of Watkinsville, Ga., was hospitalized at Georgia Regents Medical Center for six weeks with severe preeclampsia, a condition that causes a rapid rise in blood pressure and threatens the life of mother and child. She was on a roller coaster as a test one day would give hope to be dashed by another the next. Prince-Coleman was in obstetrics as a student but quickly became much more to Drake, she wrote in her letter nominating the student for the award.
“(She) filled a need that I did not know was unmet until she came along,” Drake wrote. “Her presence in my care is best described as a friend caring for a friend, yet always aware of her role professionally.” Drake was finally induced because of her deteriorating health even though the twins were so premature they would not likely survive. Prince-Coleman held her hand throughout even as she helped in the procedure, Drake wrote.
“She was able to attend to the medical details of the moment and not lose sight of the personal, human aspect of the patient,” she wrote.
Prince-Coleman would often stop by the room afterward and helped Drake with her grief.
“I felt safe with her, safe to express what I was feeling and know that she would not overly placate me with kind words or be indifferent either,” Drake wrote. “She wasn’t afraid of my emotions, whether happy or sad. She was very knowledgeable in her continued care for me in the days after delivery.”
Prince-Coleman’s professionalism, work ethic and especially her compassion prompted not only her classmates and instructors but also those from other colleges and professions who interacted with her in the clinics to nominate her.
“(She) served as the ideal role model for the junior medical students rotating with us and even they would comment on how thorough her presentations were,” said Dr. Kristin Oates, an OB/GYN resident. “She demonstrated that she not only has the mental prowess required to succeed in the medical profession but also has the innate gift of compassion and empathy that are the true art of our profession.”
Prince-Coleman called 20 shelters to get a psychiatric patient placed when her family refused her, and even arranged her transportation, picked up her medications and worked with the shelter to get the patient an extended stay, said Dr. Scott Van Sant, the medical director of the Adult and Geriatric Inpatient Psychiatry unit.
With the HIV patient in isolation, Prince-Coleman took him magazines to keep him occupied and fought to get him phone privileges to talk with his daughter despite concerns from others, he said.
“She is a credit to her chosen profession,” Van Sant said.