The power of mercy | MedPage today

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What if we could scientifically prove that empathy improves our well-being, cognitive function, longevity, and societal well-being? Here to explore these questions James Doty, MDNeurosurgeon, inventor, entrepreneur and writer. As the founding director of Stanford Medicine Center for Research and Education on Empathy and AltruismIt focuses on the neurobiological effects of meditation, compassion, and altruistic behaviour.

His bestselling memoir of 2017, in the magic shop, details his path from a troubled childhood to becoming a world-class surgeon and philanthropist. He sits on the board of directors of a number of nonprofit organizations, including the chairman of the board Dalai Lama Foundation He is a member of the International Advisory Board of Council of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

In this episode, Doty joins Henry Bair and Tyler Johnson, MD, to discuss his unexpected journey into medicine and the amazing insights about empathy he’s gathered over the years.

In this episode you will hear about:

  • 2:10 Doty’s difficult childhood experiences and how the kindness of strangers led him to medicine
  • 11:00 How Doty handled fish-out-of-water experiences in medical school
  • 17:30 Discuss negative self-talk and how to overcome it
  • 20:19 How Doty went from developing a neuroscience center in impoverished Mississippi to setting up an altruism research lab at Stanford University
  • 26:06 Discussing an incident named from Dottie’s book, in the magic shop, and how it profoundly changed his perspective on empathy
  • 32:36 A review of some of the exciting findings of the Stanford Research and Education Center on empathy and altruism
  • Reflections on How Doty Practices Compassion in His Daily Life 38:29
  • 44:00 Brief discussion of the power of faith and how it shapes our reality
  • 49:55 Discussing how inhumane bureaucracy and exploitation of the medical field let doctors down

Here is a partial transcript (note errors are possible):

Bear: Dr.. Dottie, welcome to the show and thank you for being here.

dotted: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. And certainly anything related to doctor artI’m interested in.

Bear: So, I want to start with your difficult upbringing, which you describe in detail in your book so vividly and often heartbreakingly, in the magic shop. To set the stage for our listeners, can you tell us more about your childhood experiences?

dotted: So, I had a very challenging background. My father was an alcoholic. He was a binge drinker. My mother had a stroke when I was younger and was partially paralyzed, she had a seizure disorder, and unfortunately she was chronically depressed – she attempted suicide several times. We were on public assistance, and I’m sure you can appreciate that when a child grows up in those kinds of environments, without role models, without opportunities, without mentors, it’s really challenging.

Many of our listeners are probably familiar with what we call negative childhood experiences. And certainly these kinds of situations where you have drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, poverty, and the more of those, if you will, the less likely you are to succeed in life by conventional standards. In fact, many children from these backgrounds themselves become alcoholics, drug addicts, or suffer from mental illness. So that was kind of my background. And of course, as a result, I had a lot of feelings of despair and hopelessness.

Bear: Thank you very much for sharing that. So how did you get from that upbringing to the medical profession? How did you go from that to medical school and medical training after that?

dotted: Well, like many of us, one experience can change the course of our lives. And for me, the way I got interested in medicine was because in my fourth grade, it was Labor Day. We visited the pediatrician and he was very sympathetic and kind. And in fact, I’m sure you’ve had, being a little person you can have two experiences. You can have one person who treats you as an equal, who is kind to you, compassionate, kind. Or you could have an arrogant and narcissistic person. As a result, of course, in general, you are ashamed of such people.

In my case, though, this individual was the epitome of a doctor: kind, compassionate, listens to you, empathetic. And he made me feel comfortable to ask him questions. And he answered them very kindly. And in fact, after that, he went out of his way to talk to me. And I was so moved by that, at that moment, I decided to become a doctor.

For a full copy, visit doctor art.

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