Skip Navigation LinksHome > April 2012 - Volume 87 - Issue 4 > Faculty Empathy and the Hidden Curriculum
Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31824f60ac
Letters to the Editor

Faculty Empathy and the Hidden Curriculum

Neumann, Melanie PhD; Edelhäuser, Friedrich MD; Scheffer, Christian MD, MME

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Author Information

Senior researcher, University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Witten, Germany; Melanie.neumann@uni-wh.de.

Senior researcher, University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Witten, Germany, and Department for Early Rehabilitation, Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus, Herdecke, Germany.

Senior researcher, University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Witten, Germany, and Clinical Education Ward for Integrative Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus, Herdecke, Germany.

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In Reply:

Dr. Weissman brings up an important point when he argues that studies are needed to assess the empathy levels of faculty as well as those of trainees. Otherwise, it is difficult or impossible to know whether the trainees' decline in empathic capacity is a learning issue or an issue related to modeling their interactions with patients on those of the faculty. Nevertheless, in our review, we discussed possible negative influences of inadequate role models and the topic of students' mistreatment by superiors and mentors as possible reasons for empathy decline; both statements support very well Dr. Weissman's comment about the influence of faculty on students' empathy and his request for further research.

Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory1 also supports Dr. Weissman's views as well as our own, as that theory posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. In the context of Bandura's theory, it would be worthwhile not only to evaluate the emulation impact of faculty members' (empathic) behavior on students' empathy, but also to learn whether students' abilities to make independent judgments and engage in self-reflection and critical thinking are fostered by the medical faculty, as these abilities seem to be important moderating variables preventing an unconscious and not-reflected-upon imitation of nonempathic faculty behavior.

Melanie Neumann, PhD

Senior researcher, University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Witten, Germany; Melanie.neumann@uni-wh.de.

Friedrich Edelhäuser, MD

Senior researcher, University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Witten, Germany, and Department for Early Rehabilitation, Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus, Herdecke, Germany.

Christian Scheffer, MD, MME

Senior researcher, University of Witten/Herdecke, Faculty of Health, Witten, Germany, and Clinical Education Ward for Integrative Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus, Herdecke, Germany.

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Reference

1. Bandura A. Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: W.H. Freeman; 1997.

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges

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