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Spring 2014
BMM Current Issue
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Shared Values
When practiced, humanism in medicine fosters relationships with patients and other caregivers that are compassionate and empathic. It also describes attitudes and behaviors that are sensitive to the values, autonomy, cultural and ethnic backgrounds of others. —The Arnold P. Gold Foundation

Irving Sigal and his wife, Phyllis, moved to Rhode Island as a young couple, raised four children, and built a thriving family business (Tourtellot & Company) during their marriage of 55 years. When Irving Sigal was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Professor of Medicine Fred Schiffman was his treating physician. Invoking the principles of humanistic medicine, Schiffman guided the entire Sigal family through a difficult journey. “Dr. Schiffman saw my father for who he truly was,” says the Sigals’ daughter, Jamie Manville. “A family man, an entrepreneur, and a fighter—and the bond that formed between them seemed to fuel them both.”

Phyllis Sigal was diagnosed with cancer soon after Irving, so the couple began to think about what sort of legacy to leave for their family and the Rhode Island community they cared so deeply about. For months during their illnesses, Phyllis and Irving shaped a gift that would reflect their shared values of education, Judaism, and the availability of quality, compassionate health care for anyone in need.

The family became acutely aware of how fortunate they were to have access to the extraordinary end-of-life care provided by Schiffman. “So much attention is paid to maintaining and extending life, but learning how to die and how to let loved ones die is equally valuable,” says Manville. “Love with hope when it is appropriate and don’t abandon the spirit— even when it is time to leave the fight…Dr. Schiffman’s proprietary brand of medicine taught us that.”

When Irving Sigal passed away in 2007 and Phyllis in 2009, the Sigal children—Andrew, Jamie, Steven, and Susan— carried out their parents’ vision. “We wanted to make a living, breathing, and teaching memorial,” Manville says. Ensuring that future physicians would be educated in the values of humanistic medicine was important, and so connection to an academic institution like Brown was key. The family also wanted to honor the community that had given them so much. This made The Miriam an obvious choice, especially since the hospital had been a long-time recipient of the Sigal family’s volunteer and philanthropic support. With these two components in mind, the choice to endow a professorship made perfect sense.

With the endowment of the Sigal Family Professorship in Humanistic Medicine, the Sigals have shown that in addition to the impact humanistic medicine has on patients, it also leaves an indelible mark on families.

Steven Sigal, Andrew Sigal, Jamie Sigal Manville, and Susan Sigal Bazar.
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