Cardiologist Joseph Gascho ’68 was selected from among nine nominees to receive the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award, given annually at Penn State College of Medicine by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.
The award recognizes and honors one faculty member “who demonstrates both clinical excellence and outstanding compassion in the delivery of care and who shows respect for patients, their families and healthcare colleagues.”
More than 100 medical schools present the annual award to a deserving graduating senior or a doctor.
Gascho is described in a press release as a “gifted physician, professor, photographer and poet.”
He directs the Cardiology Fellowship Program, incorporating humanism into learning by sharing cardiology images that have inspired poetry.
Medical students have praised Gascho as a “reflective encouraging teacher who always pushed his students to think deeply about tough professional, ethical and social issues, and modeled himself as doing the same.”
Gascho has exhibited photographs of his patients and support staff at Penn State. “In hospitals, I want people to see that people are more than they appear to be on the surface,” he said in a January 2018 article posted on the Penn State Medicine blog. “Patients are more than just patients, and doctors are more than just doctors.”
Among his publications on cardiac enzymes and interventional cardiology is a first-prize award for poetry in the Annals of Internal Medicine. He has published a book of poetry, Cornfields, Cottonwoods, Seagulls and Sermons: Growing up in Nebraska (Cascadia, 2017).
“As a cardiologist,” Gascho says, “I see diastole as a symbol of humanism. Diastole is when the heart fills with blood. I want my patient interactions to be ‘diastoles,’ times when I ‘fill,’ not just with the obviously important medical facts, but also with the equally important non-medical aspects of their lives.”
Gascho, who has been taking photos since the 1960s (he took his favorite through a pair of binoculars in 1965 at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration), presented about his photography, poetry and work at EMU during the 2015 Homecoming weekend.