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Loss

Christopher Ruser, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

From West Haven, CT 06516.


Current Author Address: Christopher Ruser, MD, West Haven Veterans Affairs Primary Care, 11-ACSL, 950 Campbell Avenue, West Haven, CT 06516.


Ann Intern Med. 2007;147(6):440. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-147-6-200709180-00025
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Can empathy be taught?
Posted on September 22, 2007
Alicia M. Conill
University of Pennsylvania
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
As a young clinician-educator and faculty member at a prestigious medical school, I recall discussing with colleagues how frustrated we felt when some of our brightest students seemed to lack an ability to "feel". I wondered, as many had, whether empathy could ever really be taught. When illness touched me personally and prematurely, physical disability forced me to give up a busy clinical practice I cherished. I had always considered myself an empathic physician, but I never "really knew" the losses patients experience, until it happened to me. I have continued my role as an educator of med students and other health care professionals through the creation of a non-profit organization, the Conill Institute for Chronic Illness. We facilitate educational programs to increase empathy toward people who live with physical disabilities. And I have come to believe that empathy can be taught. One of the ways to do so is to allow others an honest, albeit painful, look at the experience of the loss. I respect and commend Dr. Ruser for his heartfelt and moving words. His father came alive in my mind when I read about him and the pain of losing him was palpable. The power of this story helps fuel the belief that empathy can be learned, at times through a life altering personal event. It can also be taught when the story of such loss is written about and shared. It takes courage to reveal those most vulnerable of places. Thank you to Dr. Ruser for doing so. Undoubtedly, reprints I share of this with future students will foster similar feelings within them. Their capacity to be empathic may be awakened and deepened.

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None declared

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