Caring attitudes in medical education: Perceptions of deans and curriculum leaders

Beth A. Lown, Calvin L. Chou, William D. Clark, Paul Haidet, Maysel Kemp White, Edward Krupat, Stephen Pelletier, Peter Weissmann, M. Brownell Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Systems of undergraduate medical education and patient care can create barriers to fostering caring attitudes. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to survey associate deans and curriculum leaders about teaching and assessment of caring attitudes in their medical schools. PARTICIPANTS: The participants of this study include 134 leaders of medical education in the USA and Canada. METHODS: We developed a survey with 26 quantitative questions and 1 open-ended question. In September to October 2005, the Association of American Medical Colleges distributed it electronically to curricular leaders. We used descriptive statistics to analyze quantitative data, and the constant comparison technique for qualitative analysis. RESULTS: We received 73 responses from 134 medical schools. Most respondents believed that their schools strongly emphasized caring attitudes. At the same time, 35% thought caring attitudes were emphasized less than scientific knowledge. Frequently used methods to teach caring attitudes included small-group discussion and didactics in the preclinical years, role modeling and mentoring in the clinical years, and skills training with feedback throughout all years. Barriers to fostering caring attitudes included time and productivity pressures and lack of faculty development. Respondents with supportive learning environments were more likely to screen applicants' caring attitudes, encourage collaborative learning, give humanism awards to faculty, and provide faculty development that emphasized teaching of caring attitudes. CONCLUSIONS: The majority of educational leaders value caring attitudes, but overall, educational systems inconsistently foster them. Schools may facilitate caring learning environments by providing faculty development and support, by assessing students and applicants for caring attitudes, and by encouraging collaboration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1514-1522
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgment: Dr. Lown, Dr. Chou, Dr. Clark, Dr. Haidet, Dr. White, Dr. Krupat, and Dr. Weissmann of the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare received honoraria from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for their participation in this work. Dr. White is employed by Healthcare Quality and Communication Improvement, LLC. The authors report no conflict of interest. We wish to acknowledge the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for their vision and support. The opinions contained herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, or the home institutions of the authors. Funding for this study was provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.


  • Caring attitudes
  • Hidden curriculum
  • Medical education
  • Professionalism


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