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Compassion and Health Care

A Discussion With the Dalai Lama

Snyderman, Ralph MD; Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002709
Invited Commentary: PDF Only

The calling to be a physician has historically been driven by compassion—that is, the desire to relieve the suffering of others. However, the current health care delivery system in the United States has increasingly limited the ability of physicians to express compassion as they are afforded little time for meaningful interaction with their patients. One of the authors (R.S.) draws on his current focus on developing personalized, proactive, and patient-driven models of care to argue that patient engagement plays a critical role in achieving favorable outcomes. Believing that compassion is key for establishing the physician-patient relationship needed to foster patient engagement, R.S. sought the advice of one of the world’s most recognized thought leaders on this topic, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. This Invited Commentary describes the meeting between the two authors, the Dalai Lama’s thoughts about compassion, and his challenge to bring attention to the importance of compassion in medical education, practice, and research.

R. Snyderman is chancellor emeritus, Duke University, and James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and director, Center for Personalized Health Care, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina.

T. Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama, Dharamshala, India.

Acknowledgements: Ralph Snyderman gratefully acknowledges Tenzin Taklha, Carol Weingarten, Susan Bauer-Wu, and Jon Kabat-Zinn for their assistance in facilitating the audience with the Dalai Lama; Renée Snyderman for her advice and guidance; and Cindy Mitchell and Renée Snyderman for their outstanding editorial assistance.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: Ralph Snyderman serves on the Board of Directors of CareDx, Inc., iRhythm Technologies, and Liquidia Technologies.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable

Correspondence should be addressed to Ralph Snyderman, Duke University, DUMC 3059, Durham, NC 27710; telephone: 919-684-2345; email:; Twitter: @DukePHC.

© 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges