UC San Diego's new institute will target clinician burnout, use tech to study empathy

University of California San Diego will launch a new center that will use neuroscience technologies to identify and study brain activity associated with empathetic behavior to develop training programs geared toward improving clinician burnout.

Part of the T. Denny Sanford Institute of Empathy and Compassion's mission will be to create new science-based programs that help address burnout among physicians and other healthcare professionals. The institute will use technologies such as neuroimaging to map brain activity created by empathetic behavior as well as measure the factors that support or prevent compassionate behavior. This research will support designs for new methods to increase empathic signals in the brain.

"People talk about compassion, but almost no one has ever studied how it exists in the brain," said William Mobley, MD, associate dean of neuroscience initiatives and interim director of the new institute, according to the news release. "We want to find the irrefutable scientific data that validates the immense power of compassion, identify and understand its biological underpinnings and then use that knowledge to teach empathy to new [physicians], benefit current ones and, most importantly, improve healthcare for everyone, patients and providers alike."

Research conducted by the institute's scientists and faculty will be applied to the redesign of UC San Diego School of Medicine's current medical curriculum. The creation of the institute, which was established by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford's donation, supports the university's Campaign for UC San Diego. The $2 billion fundraising initiative aims to use interdisciplinary research to improve the student and campus experience.

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