Good Mentors: An Anthropological Approach to Track the Effects of Networks on Empathy

Faculty Research Grant
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Despite over forty years of research, the processes underlying the loss of empathy (an ability to cognitively and emotionally understand another’s perspective) in medical students are not well understood. This decline paradoxically occurs when students begin contact with patients. This anthropological study addresses this transformation in empathy among students at a medical school in Mexico by a creative combination of ethnography and social network analysis. The study engages intellectual questions about medical subjectivities, broader structural factors shaping empathy decline, and the role of mentors and peers in transferring knowledge and attitudes to neophyte medical students. Through research on knowledge transfer within a medical network, the study reframes authority, health, and power within hierarchical systems.