Humanism in Medicine Research Roundup — July 2015

booksThis post is part of our series of Research Roundups — a list of recently published studies on humanism in medicine. If you would like to be notified each time a Research Roundup is published, send an email to with the subject line “Subscribe RR”.

Publications from Gold Foundation-Affiliated Authors

A Piece of My Mind: Story as Evidence, Evidence as Story
Aronson L.    JAMA. 2015 Jul 14;314(2):125-6.

Louise Aronson is one of our Gold Professors.
Dr. Aronson reflects on a news segment where the scientific evidence presented by a physician was no match for the personal story of a caller.

Ethics and professionalism education during neonatal-perinatal fellowship training in the United States
Cummings CL, Geis GM, Kesselheim JC, Sayeed S.    J Perinatol. 2015 Jun 25.
Jennifer Kesselheim is one of our Gold Professors.
Neonatal-Perinatal Fellowship Directors, fellows and recent graduates were surveyed about the quality and type of ethics and professionalism education during training. Only 37% of fellows/graduates rated ethics education as ‘excellent/very good.’ While 96% of Directors reported teaching of ethics, only 70% of fellows/graduates reported such teaching.

If Joan of Arc Had Cancer: Finding Courage, Faith and Healing from History’s Most Inspirational Woman Warrior
Roseman, J. 2015. New World Library

Janet Roseman received an APGF grant for an educational program to enhance sensitivity and empathy in a medical residency program.
This book was written to help not only cancer survivors, but also those who work with cancer survivors, incorporate arts-based medicine in their journey.  The author presents an approach of body, mind and soul to help create an environment for healing.

Other Publications

Patient perception of physician compassion after a more optimistic vs a less optimistic message: A randomized clinical trial
Tanco K, Rhondali W, Perez-Cruz P, et al.    JAMA Oncol. 2015 May 1;1(2):176-83.

100 patients were randomized to watch one of two videos vignettes of a physician discussing treatment information with a patient. Both videos showed physicians making the same number of empathetic statements but one vignette showed a more optimistic message and the other showed a less optimistic message. Patients perceived a higher level of compassion and preferred physicians who provided a more optimistic message. More research is needed in structuring less optimistic message content to support healthcare professionals in delivering less optimistic news.

Clinical realism: A new literary genre and a potential tool for encouraging empathy in medical students
McDonald P, Ashton K, Barratt R, et al.    BMC Med Educ. 2015 Jul 3;15(1):112.
Third year medical students were offered an elective writing course where they were instructed to research and create a character with a life-changing physical disorder without making the disorder the focus of the writing. The students wrote repeated assignments in the first person. Some students reported that they found it difficult to relate to “their” character initially, but their empathy for the character increased as the SSC progressed.

Physician burnout: Can we make a difference together?
Siedsma M, Emlet L.    Crit Care. 2015 Jul 2;19:273.

74 practicing physicians and 350 nontrial participants participated in this randomized clinical trial. The intervention involved 19 biweekly facilitated physician discussion groups incorporating elements of mindfulness, reflection, shared experience, and small-group learning for 9 months. The curriculum improved meaning and engagement in work and reduced depersonalization, with sustained results 12 months after the study.

Factors modifying burnout in osteopathic medical students
Lapinski J, Yost M, Sexton P, LaBaere RJ 2nd.    Acad Psychiatry. 2015 Jun 25.

This cross-sectional study and anonymous, web-based survey assessed burnout and depression in over 1,200 osteopathic medical students. Burnout was present in 40% of students and 77% met criteria for depression. Depression and academic, personal, and family stressors were all strongly linked to overall burnout as were average hours of sleep, average hours spent studying, and club involvement.

Empathy and the wounded healer: A mixed-method study of patients and doctors views on empathy
Brady C, Bambury RM, O’Reilly S.    Ir Med J. 2015 Apr;108(4):125-6.

Researchers surveyed 125 patients and 361 medical practitioners about their views of the doctor-patient relationship. Patients desire a doctor that is both clinically proficient and caring. Doctors who have a personal experience of illness have a statistically higher empathy score.

Promoting resident wellness: Evaluation of a time-off policy to increase residents’ utilization of health care services
Cedfeldt AS, Bower E, Flores C, et al.    Acad Med. 2015 May;90(5):678-83.

In 2010 a new institutional policy was implemented to grant residents time off to access personal and family health care. Researchers surveyed 490 residents and fellows two years after the policy took effect.  49% used the policy to access health care. The most commonly reported barrier to policy use was concern about the impact the resident’s absence would have on colleagues.

Efficacy of burnout interventions in the medical education pipeline
Williams D, Tricomi G, Gupta J, Janise A.    Acad Psychiatry. 2015 Feb;39(1):47-54.

Researchers reviewed nineteen articles about interventions to mitigate burnout among medical students and residents. Eleven different types of interventions and combinations of interventions were used. Self-development groups, the Respiratory One Method for relaxation, and conversion to a pass-fail grading system appear to reduce burnout. The burnout data on mindfulness training and the 2003 resident duty-hour restrictions are mixed.

BrandyKing-150x150This post was written by Brandy King, Head of Information Services at The Arnold P. Gold Foundation Research Institute