NYMC Faculty Publications

When Did the Empathy Die?: Examining the Correlation Between Length of Medical Training and Level of Empathy

Author Type(s)

Student, Faculty

Journal Title

Medical Science Educator

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Document Type


Publication Date




Second Department

Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


PURPOSE: Empathy is an important skill for physicians as it can lead to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction. This study assessed self-reported empathy by medical students across all four years of medical school and potential differences in empathy across students interested in different subspecialties. METHOD: All medical students enrolled at New York Medical College in August 2020 were invited to participate in this study. Participants completed the student version of the Jefferson Scale of Empathy. RESULTS: A total of 179 medical students participated. Mean empathy score in fourth-year students was significantly lower than that in first-year students. Mean empathy score was greatest among students interested in Pediatrics and was greater in participants who identified as women. CONCLUSIONS: Self-reported empathy may be lower in upper-year medical students when compared to lower-year students. The potential reasons for lower empathy in the later years of training are discussed. A systematic curriculum for teaching and maintaining empathy should be developed and uniformly implemented across medical schools to combat a potential decline in empathy.