College of

Humanism in Medicine Conference

Engage | Rejuvenate | Nurture | Inspire

Humanism in Medicine Conference wordmark with sponsors


2018 Speaker Sessions

Welcome Address
Ajay Khilanani, MD, and Jessica Priestley, MS4

Guided Mindfulness and Meditation
Ajay Khilanani, MD

Ajay Khilanani, MD, is board certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. He serves as an intensivist and Fellowship Associate Program Director at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. He has a long-term interest in Humanism in Medicine and continues to serve as Course Director for Pediatric Bedside Medicine at MSU College of Human Medicine. He has worked with TedMed as a Frontline Scholar and as a Research Scholar. His active global health projects and partnerships in India, Nepal, and Myanmar remain centered on clinical care, physician education, and development of long- term and self-sustaining projects. He has been exposed to eastern spirituality since childhood, and continues to practice meditation on a regular basis.

From Bench to Bedside: Narrative in Cellular Research
Richard Leach, MD, FACOG, FACS


Richard Leach, MD, is the chair of MSU College of Human Medicine Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. He is a Fellow in the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Clinical Endocrinologists. He serves on several national committees as an expert on in-vitro fertilization (IVF), including the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technologies. He is a national expert on early implantation, and his research on how this can cause infertility is supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Innovation and Technology for Resource-Limited Areas
Stephen and Anna John

Stephen & Anna John are siblings who are part of the core team at AIM Tech. AIM Tech develops safe, user- friendly, low power, and affordable medical equipment to improve health care for underserved groups on a global scale. Their first product, NeoVent, is a patent- pending, award-winning ventilator designed to help infants suffering from severe respiratory illness. The NeoVent is a noninvasive,  ultra-low  cost,  safe,  easy to use and low power dual pressure ventilator which they hope to scale for use in Southeast Asia and Africa. Stephen holds degrees in mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences. He is presently pursuing an MD degree at the University of Michigan, and has led the development of NeoVent since inception. Anna serves as the President of AIM Tech and holds a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan. Visit for more information.

Creativity in Personalized Medicine
Bridget Sova, MT-BC

Bridget Sova, MT-BC, serves as the Edward and June Prein Family Endowed Pediatric Music Therapist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. She  completed her internship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy. She is known for the innovative and creative ways in which she helps pediatric patients with anxiety and stress reduction, non-pharmacological management of pain, developmental stimulation and self-expression. Her creative work expands beyond the patient to their families and even medical caretakers.

Designing, Building, and Sustaining a Global Health Program
Jeri Kessenich, MD

Jeri Kessenich, MD, is a board certified pediatrician and a practicing pediatric hospitalist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. She also serves as Program Director for the Pediatric Hospital Medicine Fellowship Program. She has been doing international medical work for over 20 years and started working in Haiti in 2009. She is co-founder of the non-profit organization Kids Health for Haiti (KHH). Through the development of long- standing partnerships with educational institutions and community health centers in Haiti, KHH has provided acute and preventative medical care and basic health education to Haitian students and their families throughout the year. They have additionally provided  a forum through which medical practitioners  from  the US can receive exposure to international health while cultivating a spirit of volunteerism. Visit for more information.

Re-defining Health, Healing, and Wellness
Anoop Kumar, MD, MM

Anoop Kumar, MD, is a board-certified and practicing Emergency Medicine Physician in the Washington DC metro area. He holds a Master’s degree in Management & Health Leadership from McGill University where he completed his thesis: Managing Anew: Unleashing the power of managing to achieve health at every level.  He is the author of the book Michaelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body  will  transform health and healthcare. He continues to explore the intersection between self-awareness, science, and well being through lectures, seminars, and articles, and has collaborated alongside Deepak Chopra on numerous occasions. Visit for more information.

Small Groups Discussion on Community Enaged Activism
Facilitated by Diane Doberneck, PhD

Diane Doberneck, PhD, is the Associate Director at MSU’s National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement, where she provides leadership for the University Outreach and Engagement Educational Programs Team, coordinates the MSU Graduate Certification in Community Engagement, and conducts research about community-engaged scholarship. Her research interests include outreach and engagement in the promotion and tenure process, faculty integration of outreach and engagement, and administration of graduate student and faculty pathways to community- engaged careers. Visit University Outreach and Engagement for more information.

Yoga & Movement
Facilitated by AM Yoga

Group photo of medical students doing yoga

AM Yoga teachers utilize daily practices, community, and service to improve the personal health of the Grand Rapids community. More specifically, their private and group, yoga and meditation classes help learners of all levels achieve strength, flexibility, awareness, stillness, and well-being. Visit for more information.

Service Project


Steepletown Neighborhood Services

In partnership with Steepletown Neighborhood Services, conference participants worked to paint a new home for a family that is still recovering from the loss of a mother and child in a motor vehicle accident. The family had received care in the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Group photo of all medical students who volunteered at Steepletown

Photo of two medical students painting at Steepletown

Justice for our Neighbors

In partnership with Justice for Our Neighbors, conference participants worked directly with a family of seven to complete their Visa application forms.

Medical students helping a family while volunteering at Justice for Our Neighbors

Medical student helping a child while volunteering at Justice for Our Neighbors



Funding and support for the 2018 Humanism in Medicine Conference was provided by:

Department of Pediatrics and Human Development wordmark The Arnold P. Gold Foundation Gold Humanism Honor Society logo 

Conference Planning Committee


  • Ajay Khilanani, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, MSU College of Human Medicine assistant professor
  • Jeri Kessenich, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Hospitalist Medicine, MSU College of Human Medicine  associate professor
  • Julie Phillips, Assistant Dean for Student Career and Professional Development, Office of Student Affairs & Services, MSU College of Human Medicine
  • Jessica Priestley, MS4, MSU College of Human Medicine, President of Gold Humanism Society Michigan State University Chapter
  • Melissa Kacos, MSU College of Human Medicine Office of Student Affairs and Services

2019 Speaker Application


If you are interested in speaking at the Humanism in Medicine Conference in February, 2019, download the application form. Deadline is 8/31/18.



For more inforamation about the conference, contact Melissa Kacos