Dialogue Volume 14 Issue 3 2018 - Page 21

PRACTICE PARTNER A Prescription for Empathy Dr. Brian Goldman A t a medical centre just outside Quebec City, Dr. Brian Goldman was about to have his first functional MRI (fMRI) brain scan. He grabbed a joystick to get ready. For his test, Dr. Goldman would be looking at dozens of photos of various individuals, studying their expressions. Within four seconds, he had to use the joystick to move a cursor along a line representing By Stuart Foxman how much pain he thought the person in the photo was feeling. Later, a researcher would examine the scan to see what happened to Dr. Goldman’s cin- gulate cortex and insula, which light up when you see someone in severe pain. This was part of a study measuring empathy in health-care professionals compared to a group of lay DOC TALK people. Dr. Goldman was one of the first test subjects. His trip to the clinic was part of a larger journey that Dr. Goldman undertook for his latest book, called The Power of Kindness: Why Empathy is Essential in Everyday Life. Dr. Goldman (doctorbriangoldman.com) is an ER physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in To- ronto, and the host of the CBC Radio show White Coat, Black Art. He calls empathy “the ability to use your imagination to see things from the point of view of another person, and to use that per- spective to guide your behaviour.” That’s a clinical skill in medicine (and a life skill). Providing care also means showing care. What are the patient’s hopes, fears, desires, concerns and anxieties? When people com- ISSUE 3, 2018 DIALOGUE 21