Empathy Skills Must Be Given a High Priority in Medical Education

Armen Hareyan's picture
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A paradigm shift in medical education is needed, one with more emphasis on training future physicians to enhance their empathy skills and to learn to view patients as persons, not just cases, a medical education specialist at Jefferson Medical College says.

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"If we want to train physicians with more empathy, then education must shift from emphasizing only the biomedical to also providing a biopsychosocial framework, as well and a more complete picture of patients as persons," says Mohammadreza Hojat, Ph.D., research professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

According to Dr. Hojat, who has written a book, Empathy in Patient Care: Antecedents, Development, Measurement, and Outcomes, (Springer-Verlag 2007), much emphasis is placed today on the biomedical paradigm of health and illness, which is akin to treating the organ affected by disease rather than curing the patient's illness. "The thinking is, once you treat the organ, the patient is fine," he says. "This is a unidimensional approach to patient care. Health is not simply defined as absence of disease

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