Closing the Empathy Gap

One of Fleisher’s most innovative programs is it’s partnership with Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. For the past few years, faculty member Julia Clift has been teaching anatomical sketching to first-year students at the college who must complete a humanities requirement as part of their curriculum. Those drawing classes are aimed at helping future physicians look more closely and notice important details in their patients.


In a time when research shows a significant rise in burnout and an inability to connect compassionately with their patients, Dr. Salvatore Mangione, as associate professor of medicine at the college, hopes the arts can help combat that. The humanities, he says, also inject a greater sense of empathy, something he insists must coexist with science, research, and cutting-edge treatment.

“When we send medical students to draw or write plays, they’re learning to become better physicians — not the next Shakespeare or Michelangelo,” says Dr. Sal Mangione. “The humanities offer a different way of thinking, seeing, feeling and engaging with the world. They teach us what it means to be fully human. For medical students, the goal is to nurture important traits so often lamented as absent from medicine today.”

The program, as well as supporting research, was recently published in Thomas Jefferson University’s alumni bulletin. Read more here.

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