Author Credentials

William J Crump, MD Steve Fricker, MPA Craig H. Ziegler, PhD


medical education, medical students, empathy, professional identity


Medical Education | Medicine and Health Sciences



Empathy is widely considered to be key to being an effective physician. The measurement of empathy is important to those designing medical education. The majority of the literature on empathy is based on survey scales that ask the learner to express their degree of agreement with a series of statements. We have previously studied and published an entirely projective measure that we term a career eulogy.


We had 65 students based at a regional rural medical school campus complete measures of a career eulogy (CE) and the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) over their four years in medical school. We then calculated weighted correlations between these two instruments. We also asked students to rank 10 factors that they thought affected student responses about empathy.


We found a significant moderate correlation of JSE score with mentions of compassion on the CE (r = 0.414, p= 0.001). We also found that women scored higher on both instruments. The only factor showing consensus among students was that the general outlook on life was the most likely factor explaining student empathy responses.


Mentions in the compassion category on the CE appear to be measuring a concept very similar to empathy on the JSE. Students expressed that factors affecting their responses about empathy are very individual and that only interventions to change the general outlook on life may affect these measures of empathy. Having used the CE for the last five years, we find it to be a brief, very useful exercise both for measurement of empathy and as a group facilitation method in our professional identity curriculum. We welcome others to use our CE instrument in larger and more diverse groups to determine its true value in both measuring empathy and facilitating group process.