Individual Responsibility to the Profession

Consider: the role of empathy in medical student education while reading Walking a mile in their patients’ shoes:empathy and othering in medical students’ education. The article discusses the barriers for medical education to promote empathy and offers up a paradigm that may help trainees deal with these barriers and possible ideas of how they could be surmounted.

Physicians and patients alike will agree that empathy is integral to patient care. But it is not as easy as we might think. Empathy is not unlike other clinical skills and practices. Take learning to listen to a heart. We begin with simple instructions about how to use a stethoscope and then slowly build more precise attunement to any irregularities in heartbeat. In empathy, we begin with simple questions like “how do you feel today?”, but experience, practice, and knowledge will create greater attunement to the feelings of others. This article by Dr. Shapiro is just one step in the direction of building the knowledge necessary to becoming an excellently empathically attuned physician. 

WATCH: Examined Life – Judith Butler & Sunaura Taylor

The conversation in this video is an excellent example of what it means to be curious, humble and empathic in conversation with others and across sameness/difference. Sunaura Taylor is an artist and writer, she articulates the social model of disability and demonstrates its effect on her life excellently. Taylor and Butler call on us to think about how what our bodies can do in the world depends on what the world allows physically and through social norms. Most importantly, Taylor and Butler show us how important it is to know about the experiences of others by talking with them and privileging their perspective by always remaining curious and open.  

Review these Key Ethics Terms:


If you’re feeling eager for more… explore this article on How to Teach Doctors Empathy which talks about the growing emphasis on empathy training for health care professionals and describes a few such trainings across the country.