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Journal of Biomedical Education
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 923810, 8 pages
Review Article

The Role of Empathy and Wisdom in Medical Practice and Pedagogy: Confronting the Hidden Curriculum

Medical Humanities Program, Department of Philosophy, One Bear Place No. 97273, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798, USA

Received 8 June 2013; Revised 11 August 2013; Accepted 26 August 2013

Academic Editor: Stephen D. Helmer

Copyright © 2013 James A. Marcum. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The role of the virtues of empathy and wisdom in clinical practice is used to address two crises facing modern medicine—quality of care and professionalism. To that end, these virtues are initially explored individually and then collectively in terms of a synergistic relationship between them. Next, how empathy and wisdom guide and empower clinical practice, especially in terms of their synergistic relationship, is discussed vis-à-vis the two crises. The “Grand Rounds” scene from “W;t”—Margaret Edson’s 1999 Pulitzer prize-winning play—is used to illustrate how these virtues function with respect to providing quality care in a professional manner. The paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges facing the pedagogy of equipping medical students, residents, and even practicing clinicians with virtues like empathy and wisdom.