Medical Students’ Empathy Scores Drop by Graduation

Studies have shown that medical students have less empathy by the time they graduate, but several Boston healthcare centers are working to fix the issue.



Dr. Daniel Chen, an assistant professor of medicine and assistant dean of student affairs at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), has done several studies in the past few years on the topic of declining medical student empathy. The studies tracked students’ empathy scores as they moved through the curriculum, and found that the scores dropped as students progressed. Perhaps most troubling is that the largest drop occurred around the third year of medical school—the time when students begin to actually see patients. A Boston Globe article about the issue quotes Chen:


“Empathy is the cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship,’’ Chen said, so “it’s becoming more and more important to research.’’ He defines empathy as letting patients know the doctor understands their thoughts and feelings — important because studies show that patients of caring doctors may be healthier.


By Jamie Ducharme