Empathy in Podiatric Medical Education: Challenges and Opportunities for Comprehensive Care

J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2020 Sep 1;110(5):Article_12. doi: 10.7547/18-187.


Background: Many regard empathy as a critical component of comprehensive health care. Much interest has been generated in the field of medical empathy, in particular as it relates to education. Many desirable outcomes correlate with perceived empathy during the patient encounter, but paradoxically, empathy levels have been reported to decline during the years of medical education. Several new approaches have been described in the literature that intend to teach or develop empathy skills in health-care students.

Methods: PubMed, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar databases were searched for the terms empathy education, medical education, medical student, podiatric medical education, medical empathy, compassion, emotional intelligence, biopsychosocial model, and bedside manner. After implementing inclusion and exclusion criteria, articles were selected for preparation of a literature review. Analysis of the podiatric medical education on empathy was conducted by reviewing descriptions of all courses listed on each of the nine US podiatric medical schools' Web sites. The 2018 Curricular Guide for Podiatric Medical Education was analyzed.

Results: In this review, we examine the current state of empathy from a context of medical education in general, followed by a specific analysis in podiatric medicine. We define key terms, describe the measuring of empathy in medicine, explore outcomes of empathy in the health-care setting, review the reports of a decline in medical education, and highlight some of the current efforts to develop the skill in education. An overview of empathy in the podiatric medical curriculum is presented.

Conclusions: To improve the quality of care that physicians provide, a transformation in podiatric medical education is necessary. A variety of tools are available for education reform with the target of developing empathy skills in podiatric medical students.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Comprehensive Health Care
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical*
  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Podiatry*
  • Students, Medical*