Experiential factors affecting the empathy of students in their pre-clinical year(s) of 21 universities

Joseph Vigoda, Adedeji Adeniyi, Lisl Tudor, Cecilia Brassett, Sean McWatt, Mandeep G. Sagoo, Richard Wingate, Chung Liang Chien, Hannes Traxler, Jens Waschke, Franziska Vielmuth, Anna Sigmund, Takeshi Sakurai, Yukari Yamada, Mina Zeroual, Jorgen Olsen, Salma El-Batti, Suvi Viranta-Kovanen, Kevin Keay, Shuji KitaharaNeus Martínez-Abadías, Maria E. Esteban-Torné, Jill Helms, Chiarella Sforza, Nicoletta Gagliano, Madeleine Norris, Derek Harmon, Masato Yasui, Midori Ichiko, Sammi Lee, Shaina Reid, Ariella Lang, Carol Kunzel, Michael Joseph, Leo Buehler, Mark Hardy, Snehal Patel, Paulette Bernd, Heike Kielstein, William Stewart, Anne Kellett, Anette Wu, Geoffroy Noel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hands-on cadaveric dissection is often considered an important factor in shaping the emotional identity of medical and dental students as healthcare providers. This study explores how demographic and/or experiential factors affect the empathy of students in their pre-clinical year(s) of medical or dental school. In the Summer of 2021 and Fall of 2021, a total of 530 students from 21 universities around the world participating in the International Collaboration and Exchange (ICE) Program, completed a validated questionnaire containing the Santa Clara Brief Compassion (SCBC) Scale and the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ). Responses to the SCBC and TEQ were tested for variance and covariance against age group, sex, clinical experience, year of health professional school, format of anatomy education, hours of study on prosections and/or hours of hands-on cadaveric dissection in their respective curricula; and whether their school provides an opportunity for reflection, information about the body donors, a memorial service, and/or addresses empathy in their curricula. Results show that having 40-90 hours of hands-on cadaveric dissection vs 0 hours yielded higher SCBC averages (p = 0.0206) and TEQ scores (p = 0.0031); and having 20-40 hours of hands-on cadaveric dissection vs 0 hours also resulted in higher TEQ scores (p = 0.0105). Comparisons of hours of study on prosections, format of anatomy education, clinical experience, and year of health professional school yielded no significant results in relation to empathy scores. Our study found that across different regions of the world, curricula emphasizing dissection are best at preparing students to become more empathetic healthcare providers. While none of the other curricular factors proved significant, this study confirms the merit of hands-on cadaveric dissection in the emotional development of medical and dental students.


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