Faculty Advisor

Marilyn Gugliucci



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Studies have suggested that empathy in healthcare professionals tends to erode during medical school and residency training. However, a study conducted by Hofat presents outcomes that reveals the opposite effect; instead empathy improves or there is no effect on empathy at all. Despite the contradictory studies, it is generally agreed that empathy is an important aspect in the patient-physician relationship as it is associated with improved patient satisfaction, increased adherence to treatment, and fewer malpractice complaints. This research exposed 346 first year medical students to virtual reality (VR) technology that is intended to elicit empathy for a 74-year-old African American male, Alfred, whom each student embodied to experience what it is like to have macular degeneration and hearing loss. Specifically, pre/post test responses to embodying Alfred were analyzed to determine empathic changes. The VR software, developed by Embodied Labs, Inc., is specifically designed to affect health professions students and staff empathy responses. Results yielded statically significant changes between pre and post assessment across both cohorts of the Alfred Lab.

Publication Date



Empathy, Virtual Reality, Medical Students, Medical Education


Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathy

Related Materials

More materials related to the virtual reality/empathy project described in this poster are available here.


Author Wilson Mei is a UNE Osteopathic Medicine student, Elizabeth Dyer and Barbara Swartzlander are UNE Librarians, and Marilyn Gugliucci is a professor in UNECOM.

Poster presented at the 2019 University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine Student Research & Scholarship Forum, held September 13 in the Alfond Forum on UNE's Biddeford Campus.

This project has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, under cooperative agreement UG4LM012347-01 with the University of Massachusetts, Worcester. This project was also funded by the Peter Morgane Research Fellowship.

Empathy Learned Through An Extended Medical Education Virtual Reality Project



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