"Communicating Compassion" Student Leadership Program, 2021-2022

Call for Applications

Program Description and Rationale

The “Communicating Compassion” Student Leadership Program is a two-semester initiative designed to educate the next generation of health care leaders in compassionate, person-centered care and communication. Students from all six colleges of the Medical University of South Carolina undergo a competitive process to become one of our 25 scholars. These scholars meet monthly between August and April to develop skills in research, observation and analysis, mindfulness, narrative competence, and effective communication that support and promote a culture of compassion in health care. Students will investigate strategies to support person-centered care and will design small-group projects to promote compassionate care and communication at MUSC and in the community.

A growing body of research indicates that patients have better outcomes when they perceive their clinician is compassionate and communicates well 1-4. Yet multiple barriers inhibit the delivery of this type of care, including lack of time, communication skills, leadership, and positive role models 5. To address these barriers and foster compassion and self-compassion, groups like the American Medical Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation promote the value of using narratives strategies, for example, to foster the attitudes, skills and behaviors associated with compassionate care and self-care among clinicians, patients, and caregivers. The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Care leads a number of initiatives, including the “Schwartz Rounds” where clinicians gather “to learn from each other and focus on the human dimension in health care”(Schwartz Center for Compassionate Care, 2019). However, few, if any, academic health science centers have developed interprofessional educational programs aimed at preparing students to be the next leaders in compassionate care and communication. With this program, the Office of Humanities, an initiative of the Provost, and our partners aim to address that gap in education for students across multiple professions.

Students who complete this program will lead the next generation in providing compassionate communication by educating others and implementing evidence-based strategies within clinical and community settings. At the end of the program, students will be able to

  • Summarize the current literature around compassionate care and communication.
  • Identify and create resources that support and foster compassionate, person-centered care, self-care, resilience, and narrative culture;
  • Identify tools to measure compassion, communication, and resilience

Call for Applications: Students should submit a one-page, single-spaced statement describing the student’s interest in becoming a future leader in compassionate communication.  Students should submit these documents as one pdf attachment to Lisa Kerr. If you are reading this after June 2022, contact Lisa Kerr for the most current information/deadline.


  1. Derksen, F., Bensing, J., & Lagro-Janssen, A. (2013). Effectiveness of empathy in practice: A systematic review. British Journal of General Practitioner, 63 (606), e76-e84. doi: 10.3399/bjgp13X660814.
  2. Kim, S.S., Kaplowitz, S. & Johnston, M.V. (2004). The effects of physician empathy on patient satisfaction and compliance. Evaluation and Health Professions, 27(3), 237-51.
  3. Mohammedreza, et al. (2011). Physicians’ empathy and clinical outcomes for diabetic patients. Academic Medicine, 86 (3), 359-364.
  4. Rakel, et al. (2009). Practitioner empathy and the duration of the common cold. Family Medicine, 41 (7), 494-501.
  5. Christiansen, A., O’Brien, MR., Kirton, JA., Zubairu, K., Bray, L. (2015). Delivering compassionate care: The enablers and barriers. British Journal of Nursing, 24 (16):833-7. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2015.24.16.833.
  6. Schwartz Center for Compassionate Care. (2019). Schwartz Center National Report Card. Retrieved from, http://www.theschwartzcenter.org/