Teaching Empathy in Medical School

Some institutions have begun to offer empathy training for their clinicians. At Weill Cornell, we have a number of initiatives that aim to cultivate empathy and humanistic values in our students. Last year, we launched an innovative pilot program that will eventually give students the opportunity to follow one or more patients over the course of their entire four years of medical school. Currently, one first-year and one second-year student are paired together under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

 

Students build relationships with patients by attending doctor’s appointments with them, contacting them regularly, and conducting an annual home visit to understand how their diseases impact their daily lives. Students are asked to keep a reflective journal about their experiences, and they participate in monthly mentoring sessions where they discuss psychosocial issues relevant to their patients. A major goal of the program is to prepare students to deliver empathetic, socially, and ethically responsible care by providing them with exposure to patients from the very beginning of their training.

 

Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., MD, 
Laurie H. Glimcher, MD