AACOM Launches Groundbreaking Study on Medical Student Empathy with Thomas Jefferson University & Cleveland Clinic Researchers
BETHESDA, MD and PHILADELPHIA — The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) is sponsoring a groundbreaking nationwide project to study medical student empathy and its relationship to osteopathic medical education (OME) in collaboration with the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and Leonard Calabrese, DO, a professor of medicine at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. The study, titled the Project in Osteopathic Medical Education and Empathy (POME2), is the first of its kind to measure and examine reported empathy levels of students from 41 different osteopathic medical colleges, branch campuses and teaching sites. This pool of research participants represents roughly 85 percent of all DO students in the United States.
“The opportunity to partner with Dr. Len Calabrese and the strong research team at Thomas Jefferson University, and receive the support from the AOA, has led to this unprecedented initiative which offers valuable opportunities to take steps toward improving the way medical educators address empathy in relation to preparing physicians of the future,” said Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, President and CEO of AACOM. “This phase of the project is expected to yield outcomes that will aid us in evaluating empathy as a key characteristic of osteopathic medical education and practice.”
The Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE), an internationally-known and validated instrument for measuring empathy in the context of health professions education and patient care, will be used in this project. The current stage of the project is a cross-sectional two-year study of empathy norms in medical students from all four years of undergraduate medical education. Participating osteopathic medical schools will use the JSE tool to assess empathy levels in their students across all four years, creating a baseline level of empathy (participating 2017 incoming students will have an opportunity to take the survey again after their first year).
“This study will be the first in medical education to establish national norms for an important personal quality, empathy, that is the backbone of the patient-doctor relationship,” said Mohammadreza Hojat, PhD, principal investigator on the study, research professor in the Thomas Jefferson University Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, and director of the Jefferson Longitudinal Study at the Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care.
Dr. Hojat’s empirical research at Jefferson confirmed that:
- Empathy in medical students, as measured by the Jefferson Scale of empathy (JSE), is associated with higher rating of global clinical competence given by medical school faculty in core clerkships.
- Empathy erodes in the third year of medical school, when curriculum shifts from preclinical to clinical component of medical education at a time when empathy is most needed.
- Empathy can be taught and enhanced by medical students’ participation in targeted educational programs, but cannot be sustained without reinforcement.
- Physicians’ empathy, measured by the JSE, is significantly associated with positive patient outcomes in diabetic patients.
This is the first nationwide project on empathy in medical education ever undertaken. Outcomes of this study will be used to assess standards in osteopathic medical education curriculum to positively impact student empathy retention, and may have the potential to influence medical education across the health professions.
The POME2 project is made possible with sponsorship from the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), and a special endowment through collaboration with Dr. Calabrese and the Cleveland Clinic.
For more information on the POME2, visit http://www.aacom.org/empathy.