The full content of Annals is available to subscribers

Subscribe/Learn More  >
Ad Libitum |


Christopher Ruser, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure 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
Text Size: A A A





Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).


Submit a Comment/Letter
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.

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

Submit a Comment/Letter

Summary for Patients

Clinical Slide Sets

Terms of Use

The In the Clinic® slide sets are owned and copyrighted by the American College of Physicians (ACP). All text, graphics, trademarks, and other intellectual property incorporated into the slide sets remain the sole and exclusive property of the ACP. The slide sets may be used only by the person who downloads or purchases them and only for the purpose of presenting them during not-for-profit educational activities. Users may incorporate the entire slide set or selected individual slides into their own teaching presentations but may not alter the content of the slides in any way or remove the ACP copyright notice. Users may make print copies for use as hand-outs for the audience the user is personally addressing but may not otherwise reproduce or distribute the slides by any means or media, including but not limited to sending them as e-mail attachments, posting them on Internet or Intranet sites, publishing them in meeting proceedings, or making them available for sale or distribution in any unauthorized form, without the express written permission of the ACP. Unauthorized use of the In the Clinic slide sets will constitute copyright infringement.


Buy Now for $32.00

to gain full access to the content and tools.

Want to Subscribe?

Learn more about subscription options

Topic Collections
Forgot your password?
Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a reminder to the email address on record.