Adding Empathy to Medical School Requirements | Center for Advancing Health

Is it possible for a young medical student to understand a patient’s experience? Or the day-to-day life of a person with a chronic illness? In ‘Healthy Privilege’ – When You Just Can’t Imagine Being Sick, Carolyn Thomas observes that “what I’ve learned since my heart attack is that, until you or somebody you care about are personally affected by a life-altering diagnosis, it’s almost impossible to really get what being sick every day actually means. Such is the bliss – and the ignorance – of healthy privilege.”


After experiencing a rare eye infection that resulted in her “worst  pain ever,” first-year medical student Natalie Wilcox shared that “as doctors, it is our job not only to provide care, but to comfort, and to do this we must acknowledge our patients’ feelings.” While noting that every person experiences pain differently, Wilcox adds, “By recalling my own pain, I bring forth real empathy rooted in shared experience.”