UK’s first and only research Centre dedicated to placing empathy at the heart of healthcare

The incoming director of a major new research and teaching Centre has described the urgent need to place empathy at the heart of healthcare.

Professor Jeremy Howick will join the University of Leicester as the first director of the Stoneygate Centre for Excellence in Empathic Healthcare this June. His research shows that empathic care reduces patient pain while improving their satisfaction with care and quality of life.

Also, whereas the side effects of many medical interventions can be harmful, the side effects of empathy are that it reduces anxiety and improves a practitioner’s own sense of self-satisfaction with their careers. Professor Howick said: “People go into the medical profession because they care about people, yet a lot of the time their motivation is forgotten amidst the need to memorise facts for exams and, after they qualify, filling out forms.”

With over 100 peer-reviewed publications, three books, and regular media appearances, Professor Howick has an established track record of research and teaching in evidence-based medicine, placebo effects, and empathy. He joins Leicester having directed the Oxford University Empathy Programme. He added: “Medical Schools have long-recognised the importance of communication skills, but this Centre will be pivotal in breaking down the perceived separation between good communication and the ‘objective’ knowledge of human bodies and what to prescribe them.”

The unique £10m Stoneygate Centre for Excellence in Empathic Healthcare, co-funded by the University and The Stoneygate Trust, will provide the resources required to embed empathy into the core of the Medical School curriculum, and then expand it across the UK and beyond. The Centre will officially launch in autumn later this year.

It will build on the empathy curriculum delivered to Leicester Medical School’s Foundation Year students, also supported by the Stoneygate Trust. The training is planned to include inviting students to experience healthcare first-hand – for example, through spending the night as a patient – to extending and enhancing the use of expert patients and scenario-based learning with actors.

The Stoneygate Trust is a charity established in 2007 by Sir Will and Lady Nadine Adderley, with a particular focus on medical research and helping to support equal educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged children and students.