May 21, 2019

Jeremy Baruch, MD (17): Serving a higher purpose

Spiritual competency integrated into med student training

Alumnus Dr. Jeremy Baruch (MD 2017) attended U-M as an undergrad, and after completing a postbac, returned for medical school. His first child was born when he was an M1 and his second child was born during his M4 year. He started an ICU-Chaplaincy “Healing Presence” program elective for medical students, which is still active along with the medical school’s program on Health, Spirituality and Religion that he co-founded when he was a student and is now the associate director. 

As a second-year psychiatry resident, Dr. Baruch pursues several research projects, mentors medical students, is currently developing another elective for M4s, and is working on an institute for Michigan Medicine faculty on health, spirituality and religion. Here he answers 10 questions about his time in med school and why spiritual care is essential to providing holistic patient-centered care.

What called you to explore a career in medicine?

I decided to go to medical school after interning as a hospital chaplain. I felt inspired to complement my pastoral training with medical knowledge to holistically care for my patients.

Why did you choose to attend UMMS for your medical education?

My brother, Adam Baruch, MD (UMMS ‘14) was a UMMS medical student at the time I was applying and was having a positive educational experience. I ultimately chose to attend UMMS as I was impressed on the interview day, Ann Arbor is a great place to live, and I was grateful to receive a Dean’s Scholarship.

How did being a Dean’s Scholar impact your experience as a med student?

Participating in the Dean’s Scholar programming reinforced my sense that being a physician is about providing excellent patient care while being an agent of positive change in the health care system.

How was UMMS a good fit for you?

UMMS was a good fit for me in the areas of the curriculum that allowed for individual initiative. In particular, I was able to participate in clinical and research electives as an M4 in Israel. Additionally, I was able to be involved in starting the medical school’s Program on Health, Spirituality and Religion.

Looking back, which resources on campus were most helpful to your education?

Developing relationships with a few attendings who became mentors to me was the most helpful resource.

What prompted you to start an ICU-Chaplaincy program for medical students in their ICU rotation electives? How have you adapted this program for the new Branches curriculum?

Chaplaincy provides unique perspectives on illness, healing and relationships that transformed the way I conceptualize patient care. We have an excellent Spiritual Care department at Michigan Medicine, and I wanted to expose other learners to some of the insights that have been very meaningful to me.

We developed an elective for medical students rotating in the ICU to work closely with chaplains, process their experiences working with severely ill and dying patients, and be exposed to foundational concepts in clinical pastoral education. In terms of the Branches, we are currently developing a senior medical student elective on the intersections between health, spirituality and religion.

Why is spiritual care an important part of patient care?

Spiritual care is an important part of patient care because it reminds the provider that there is a whole person with values, hopes and ideals behind the disease process. Medical decision making ideally takes the whole person into account when developing treatment plans.

What specific resources/activities/events would you suggest to prospective med students with families?

The University of Michigan Health System Children’s Center is a fantastic place. It is a warm, nurturing, creative environment to send your children while you focus on your medical education.

What are your future plans?

I plan to work with child, adolescent and adult patients, integrating therapy with psychopharmacology. Ideally, I hope to also be involved in the education and mentorship of mental health trainees.

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering the University of Michigan Medical School for their training?

Take time to reflect on your values, passion and curiosities to identify personal and professional goals - and remember that there are many paths to get where you are going. Medical training is an arduous process so it’s good to have an evolving vision of what you are striving for.