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:

Technology should be used to boost empathy-based medicine
Existing digital technologies must be exploited to enable a paradigm shift in current healthcare delivery which focuses on tests, treatments and targets rather than the therapeutic benefits of empathy.
Chatter in the deep brain spurs empathy in rats
By combining electrical monitoring of neural activity with machine learning, a team of Duke and Stanford University neuroscientists has tuned into the brain chatter of rats engaged in helping other rats.
Two types of empathy elicit different health effects, Penn psychologist shows
Research led by a University of Pennsylvania psychologist finds that our bodies respond differently depending on the perspective we take when helping someone who is suffering.
Study shows 'walking a mile in their shoes' may be hazardous to your health
When it comes to empathy, the idiom that suggests 'walking a mile in their shoes' turns out to be problematic advice, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
Virtual humans help aspiring doctors learn empathy
How a revolutionary technology -- which assesses a student's body language, facial expressions and communication strategies -- is helping train more empathetic doctors.
Tests can help quantify automatic empathy and moral intuitions
When people scan the latest political headlines or watch a video from a war-ravaged land, they tend to feel snap ethical or moral responses first and reason through them later.
Empathy from the sick may be critical to halting disease outbreaks
A little empathy can go a long way toward ending infectious disease outbreaks.
Violent video games found not to affect empathy
The link between playing violent video games and antisocial behavior, such as increased aggression and decreased empathy, is hotly debated.
New brain target for potential treatment of social pathology in autism spectrum disorder
Researchers at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science have induced empathy-like behavior by identifying then manipulating a brain circuit in an experimental model, an indication that new strategies may help people with autism spectrum disorder gain social abilities.
Empathetic people experience dogs' expressions more strongly
A study by the University of Helsinki and Aalto University explored how empathy and other psychological factors affect people's assessments of the facial images of dogs and humans.

Related Empathy Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...