Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP


Early diagnosis of dementia and dementia-related illnesses provides increased time for treatment, which is aimed at maintaining patient function and delaying decline (Teel, 2004). Empirical studies have shown a decline in empathy during undergraduate and graduate medical education (Hojat et al., 2009). This study examines differences between 2nd and 4th year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) students’ knowledge, empathy and confidence in working with individuals diagnosed with dementia and addressing caregiver stress. Students from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine completed an online survey which included the Knowledge in Dementia Scale (KIDE), Jefferson Scale of Empathy-Medical Student Version (JSE-S), Confidence in Dementia Scale, and a vignette focused on caregiver stress. Data analysis included165 individuals who met inclusion criteria and completed the survey. Findings indicated no significant difference between 2nd year and 4th year DO students’ levels of knowledge. However, the 2nd year cohort reported higher levels of empathy and lower levels of confidence compared with the 4th year students, who reported lower levels of empathy and higher levels of confidence in working with caregivers and patients with dementia. There was a positive correlation between higher levels of empathy and rating the vignette as stressful for the patient caregivers. These findings highlight the need for continued education and dementia care skill building for medical students. This research address implications for medical education and proposes that future research include continuity examination of a cohort of students over the course of medical education to better delineate the factors contributing to the observed changes.