Posts tagged with "Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphi"

Cold comfort: Incoming medical students should be tested for empathy, study says

August 5, 2019

We’ve all been there—especially the women among our readers: Sitting in a doctor’s office and explaining our symptoms to a medical professional who is completely dismissive, disinterested, and in disbelief.

Worse yet is the practitioner who blames the patient for the condition—and lets her (or him) know about it through insolent or disdainful body language and comments.

Heather Cianciolo says she can tell within minutes if she’s going to like a doctor. “Ten minutes into a doctor’s appointment and I know if it’s going to be a waste of my time,” she said. “It’s a warning sign if someone doesn’t come in and ask me about me—{but rather] just starts talking at me.

“And it happens a lot,” she told The Chicago Tribune for a recent story.

The 46-year-old Oak Park, Illinois, woman—who has long suffered from migraine headaches— said she had to “go through” several specialists who didn’t listen to her before finding one she loves who is now her primary care physician.

“She listens and then she will explain her thinking. She expresses an interest in what’s happening,” Cianciolo said. “If you’re not going to take the time to answer my questions, why would I entrust my health care to you?”

Experts say the ability for doctors to build a rapport with their patients helps build trust and, in turn, improves patient outcomes.

In fact, Mohammadreza Hojat—a research professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who recently designed a questionnaire for  more than 16,000 students of osteopathic medicine—suggests that a norm-level of empathy could (and should) be required for all incoming medical students nationwide, according to the report by the Tribune.

Once a norm-level is established, Dr. Hojat suggests, medical schools should use the data to assess for empathy, alongside academic measures like college transcripts and MCAT scores, when considering medical school applicants.

 “There are two components of medicine. One component is the science of medicine and one component is the art of medicine,” Dr. Hojat told the Tribune. “When it comes to art of medicine, it is about interpersonal relationships and empathy, and we have no method in place” to measure that in medical students’ applicants.

Although empathy can be taught, Hojat said, students who already come to medical school with a strong sense of empathy will make better doctors. And he noted that, although the study focused on students of osteopathic medicine, the tool should be used by traditional medical schools.

Dr. John Prescott, chief academic officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, said in a statement that “humanism and empathy are critical qualities required of tomorrow’s physicians.” But the statement also claimed that medical schools already look at a “holistic review of applicants … which looks beyond grades and test scores.”

And Jean Decety, a University of Chicago neuroscientist who studies empathy, told the news outlet that, although he hadn’t read the study, his work has shown that empathy only is important for “certain types of physicians.”

In fact, he said, some students will go into specialties that don’t require strong interpersonal skills—for example, radiologists who mostly read images, or surgeons who require excellent technical skills but not necessarily a lot of empathy.

“That’s what you want from your surgeon,” he said.

The study was published July 25 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Research contact: @chicagotribune