Maintaining Empathy While Mastering Medicine – Science Careers Blog

Medical students are selected as much for their character as for their knowledge. The trait most valued (or that should be the most valued) is empathy. Ironically, studies show an erosion of empathy during medical school. Why does this happen, and what can we do about it?

We all know what empathy is, or think we do, but medical educators have struggled to define it in the context of medical care. Empathy facilitates understanding of another person’s concerns, and many ascribe to empathy the emotional characteristic of feeling another’s pain and suffering. But in recent years, researchers and psychometricians have come to view empathy as a primarily cognitive attribute that can be role-modeled, taught, and assessed.


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