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New Program At USF Health Hopes To Mold More Empathetic Physicians

Can we teach empathy to the next generation of physicians?  The University of South Florida Health thinks so and they’re putting it on the line this week with the launch of the SELECT program, a new curriculum intended to “put empathy, communication and creativity back into doctoring.”

The SELECT (Scholarly Excellence. Leadership Experiences. Collaborative Training.) program will offer 19 select students unique training in leadership development as well as the scholarly tools needed to become physician leaders and catalysts for change. During their first week on campus, instead of the old-style medical school tradition of heading to the gross anatomy lab, SELECT students are immersed in leadership training centered in empathy and other core principles of patient-centered care.

The hope is that this program will prepare the next generation of departmental chairmen, CMOs and physician thought leaders through more intense, non-traditional preparation.

Students will spend two years studying at USF Health, followed by two years of clinical training at USF Health’s partner in SELECT, the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, PA, to complete their MD degree.  Lehigh Valley was chosen for its unique culture that supports the vision of the SELECT program.

The selection of the students for this program is interesting.  USF Health worked with the Teleos Leadership Institute to utilize an in-depth interview process to assess emotional intelligence.  Founded by two best-selling authors and scholars from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, Teleos focuses on finding how leaders can improve organizational outcomes through emotionally resonant leadership.

(Perhaps we should screen all medical school applicants this way.)

While it will be interesting to see where this goes, it wasn’t exactly clear how the program plans to prepare its future docs for health 2.0.  Recognition of the exploding role of diagnostic and predictive technology in clinical care, evolving communication platforms, self-quantification and the realities of the empowered patient represent glaring elements that will define our next generation of providers.

Yet in a medical education system mired in the last century I think that any effort to move the chains forward should be recognized.  I suspect that over the coming generation as technology pulls us further from our patients we’ll find ourselves exploring the unique value that we bring to our patients.  And empathy is always a good place to start.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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