AACOM Launches Groundbreaking Study on Empathy

(August 1) The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), in collaboration with the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and Leonard Calabrese, DO, a professor of medicine at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, is sponsoring a groundbreaking nationwide project to study medical student empathy and its relationship to osteopathic medical education (OME).

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 for each (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. “My team’s previous research showed that empathy can predict clinical competence in medical students and clinical 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 POMEproject is made possible with sponsorship from the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), and through support and collaboration with Dr. Calabrese who holds the Theodore F Classen DO Chair of Osteopathic Research and Education at the Cleveland Clinic.

For more information on the POME2, visit aacom.org/empathy.

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) represents the 33 accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States. These colleges are accredited to deliver instruction at 48 teaching locations in 31 states. In the current academic year these colleges are educating over 27,000 future physicians—more than 20 percent of all U.S. medical students. Six of the colleges are public and 27 are private institutions.




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