Mindfulness in Medical School

Seated, cross-legged on the floor of gate 35A, Washington National Airport, life swirls chaotically by while 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation preserves equanimity, calmness and open heartedness.

Mindfulness, or voluntary, non-judgmental awareness in the moment is a human trait which can be developed. It is an essential step In the development of empathy, which is in turn necessary to be compassionate.

I would like to propose a radical idea: empathy and compassion should be viewed as essential conditions for employment as a physician

And yet we see that medical education consistently damages medical students diminishing measures of empathy and thereby compassion in a stepwise fashion from years 1 to 4. The first to bear the brunt of this are the students themselves with rates of depression and burnout that approach 50%; as many as 10% consider suicide and indeed physician suicide is a silent epidemic. Not unexpectedly this toxic mash-up has an pervasive negative effect on others including families, coworkers and patients.

One medical school seems to fully understand this: Georgetown University. At Georgetown, dean Ray Mitchell, Nancy Haradzuk and Aviad Haramati have developed an 11 week course in mind-body skills for 1st year medical students and similar programs for faculty. Mindfulness permeates the culture at Georgetown, and Georgetown students get through their education with their empathy,their compassion and their essential humanity intact. They have the data to prove it.

I just checked the US News rankings of medical schools and Georgetown is listed at 48th. Until a metric is added for the effect of the education on empathy and capacity for compassion of the graduates I strongly disagree.

I think that Georgetown is the best medical school in the country

Thanks for reading,


This entry was posted in gratitude, integrative medicine, mindfulness. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mindfulness in Medical School

  1. John McBurney says:

    My hero Pamela Wible, the healing goddess left me this comment but could not get WordPress to accept her password. She asked me to pass this along.
    “Hey John ~
    We just lost 3 physicians to suicide in my little town in the last 18 months.
    Going to another memorial tomorrow. Pediatrician shot himself in the head
    in a public park. Family physician walks in front of train. Urologist shoots
    selfin head. I am writing a bog on this next week.
    One doc in town an averted suicide last week. Another doc reports she
    has lost 7 colleagues to suicide in her life. I believe there is an underreporting
    f these cases and certainly very little discussion about WHY this is happening.
    My book was published just two days before we lost the last one. I wish he
    oould have had a chance to read it and celebrate the joy of medicine with me.
    ~Pamela Wible MD”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s