Nav: Home

Researchers suggest empathy be a factor in medical school admissions

July 25, 2019

CHICAGO--July 25, 2019--High empathy scores could become part of the criteria for getting into medical school, according to research published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

The study gauged empathy levels of 16,149 new matriculants and first- through fourth-year medical students, establishing a set of national norms, which serve as a bench mark for assessing future applicants' suitability to the profession.

Researchers say the national norms can help to distinguish between two applicants with similar academic qualifications, and identify students who might need additional educational remedies to bolster their level of empathy.

"Testing for empathy should not replace the traditional admissions process," says Mohammedreza Hojat, PhD, a research professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and lead author on this study. "However, it can add great value in helping medical schools select individuals who rank high on empathic orientation toward patient care as well as academic capabilities."

Research indicates that physicians with higher levels of empathy demonstrate greater clinical competence and deliver better patient outcomes than less empathetic doctors.

"When patients feel like their doctor cares about and understands them, they are more likely to trust," Hojat explains. "Patients who trust their doctors are more likely to reveal more about their lifestyle and other factors relevant to their illness, allowing for more accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatments."

Patient compliance also improves when trust develops in physician-patient relationship , meaning patients are more likely to follow instructions, including taking medication and changing harmful habits.

A growing field of study

Hojat and his team cross-sectional study assessed empathy scores at all levels of medical school education for more than 16,000 osteopathic medical students across 41 campuses. This nationwide study developed national norms in empathy for the first time, allowing researchers to examine a number of issues, including differences in empathy among students in different years of medical school.

"Some studies with allopathic medical students showed that once they move from the first two years in medical school and into the clinical years, when they actually work with patients, their empathy begins to decline," says Hojat. "It's interesting to see if that pattern of decline can also be observed in osteopathic medical students and to explore reasons for such changes, and study approaches to enhance and retain empathy in physicians-in-training."

To better understand the causes of these changes and their impact on academic performance and clinical competence, Hojat and his team are undertaking a prospective longitudinal study to follow up a cohort of students entering medical schools in the coming academic year (2019- 2020) as they progress through medical school from matriculation to graduation.
-end-
Disclosure: The study is part of the Project in Osteopathic Medical Education and Empathy (POMEE), sponsored by the American Osteopathic Association, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Cleveland Clinic, in collaboration with the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.

About The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association

The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) is the official scientific publication of the American Osteopathic Association. Edited by Robert Orenstein, DO, it is the premier scholarly peer-reviewed publication of the osteopathic medical profession. The JAOA's mission is to advance medicine through the publication of peer-reviewed osteopathic research.

Media Contact

Jeff Brennan, Media Relations Manager
312-202-8161 | jbrennan@osteopathic.org

American Osteopathic Association

Related Empathy Articles:

Empathy for perpetrators helps explain victim blaming in sexual harassment
Men's empathy for other men who sexually harass women may help explain why they are more likely to blame victims, new research suggests.
Babies display empathy for victims as early as 6 months -- Ben-Gurion U. researchers
'The findings indicate that even during a baby's first year, the infant is already sensitive to others' feelings and can draw complicated conclusions about the context of a particular emotional display,' says Dr.
Researchers suggest empathy be a factor in medical school admissions
The national norms can help to distinguish between two applicants with similar academic qualifications, and identify students who might need additional educational remedies to bolster their level of empathy.
Diabetes patients experiencing empathy from PCPs have lower risk of mortality
A United Kingdom study designed to examine the association between primary care practitioner empathy and incidence of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality among type 2 diabetes patients found that those patients experiencing greater empathy in the year following their diagnosis saw beneficial long-term clinical outcomes.
Insects need empathy
In February, environmentalists in Germany collected 1.75 million signatures for a 'save the bees law.' Citizens can stop insect declines by halting habitat loss and fragmentation, producing food without pesticides and limiting climate change, say the authors of this Perspectives piece in Science.
Antidepressants can reduce the empathic empathy
Depression is a disorder that often comes along with strong impairments of social functioning.
Autism linked to less empathy in general population -- but that may not be a bad thing
The psychologists behind the research hope their insights can help the autistic community and those around them in adapting support available.
The power of empathy in product development
'Subtle things, such as imagining how someone else would feel, can have a huge impact on creativity in general,' says UConn's Kelly Herd.
Empathy often avoided because of mental effort
Even when feeling empathy for others isn't financially costly or emotionally draining, people will still avoid it because they think empathy requires too much mental effort, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
Testosterone and cortisol modulate the effects of empathy on aggression in children
The study conducted in the UPV/EHU's Department of Basic Psychological Processes and their Development on 139 eight-year-old children has concluded that low levels of testosterone and high levels of empathy may explain the low levels of aggressive behaviour in girls; and that the low levels of empathy and high levels of cortisol may account for high levels of aggressive behaviour in boys.
More Empathy News and Empathy Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#543 Give a Nerd a Gift
Yup, you guessed it... it's Science for the People's annual holiday episode that helps you figure out what sciency books and gifts to get that special nerd on your list. Or maybe you're looking to build up your reading list for the holiday break and a geeky Christmas sweater to wear to an upcoming party. Returning are pop-science power-readers John Dupuis and Joanne Manaster to dish on the best science books they read this past year. And Rachelle Saunders and Bethany Brookshire squee in delight over some truly delightful science-themed non-book objects for those whose bookshelves are already full. Since...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab