Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Stephanie H Felgoise, PhD, ABPP

Third Advisor

Mohammadreza Hojat, PhD


Empathy is an integral component of the physician-patient relationship and involves a cognitive and emotional ability to connect with others in a meaningful fashion. To date, only two studies exist using osteopathic medical student samples while multiple studies have shown that allopathic student empathy declines significantly during year 3. Similar results were not found in the osteopathic samples; however, the designs used were cross-sectional, while allopathic studies were longitudinal. The current study utilized a mixed methods approach that included cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, the first to do so within an osteopathic medical student population. The present study investigated empathy levels of osteopathic medical students during years 1 through 3 (n = 717) to determine if empathy declines during education; if self-reported empathy relates to patient perceived empathy, if empathy predicts career choice, and if demographics influence self-reported empathy. The Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy-Student Version was used to assess self-reported empathy; the Jefferson Scale of Perceived Physician Empathy was used to assess patient perceived empathy; and the Professionalism Assessment Ratings Scale was used to assess patient perceived interpersonal skills of the students. Results of cross-sectional analysis indicate that empathy levels decline significantly during years of education (M = 111.3, M = 112.4, M = 108.8, respectively) and longitudinal analyses of year 3 indicate the same (M = 111.2 and M = 108.7). Self-reported empathy was not found to correlate with patient perceived empathy nor predict career choice; female students scored higher than males (M = 112.3 and M = 109.3). Future research is suggested to continue to explore this topic.