Asano-Gonnella Center for Research in Medical Education & Health Care

The Center supports the SKMC faculty and administration in evaluating the knowledge, skills and professionalism of students throughout the Doctor of Medicine curriculum.

Center researchers developed and maintain the Jefferson Longitudinal Study of Medical Education and instruments including the Jefferson Scale of Empathy© and the Disease Staging severity classification which have been used in the US and internationally to measure medical education outcomes and physician competence, and document quality and cost of health care. The Center combines service to the Jefferson community with a broad spectrum of  research studies and other externally-funded projects as described in our annual report (PDF).

The Asano-Gonnella Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care (CRMEHC) provides support to the faculty in evaluating the knowledge, skills and professionalism of students throughout the Doctor of Medicine (MD) curriculum. It provides information to Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC) administration concerning key indicators used to evaluate the effectiveness of policies related to admissions, curriculum and students' academic progress. The Center continues to receive external support for its health services and policy related research. Center faculty collaborate in scholarly work with other SKMC faculty and publish and present medical education and health services research projects in U.S. and international journals and at scientific meetings.

Our faculty and staff have qualifications and professional experience in biostatistics, psychometrics, medical education assessment, evaluation of quality of health care, development and application of severity of illness methods, risk adjustment, health care financing and institutional research. 

The Jefferson Clinical Empathy Project: A New Article

A recently published article, "Clinical Empathy: Definition, Measurement, Correlates, Group Differences, Erosion, Enhancement, and Healthcare Outcomes" presents a brief history of the Jefferson Empathy Project, initiated in 2000. The article provides a workable definition of clinical empathy and describes the Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE), which is the only content-specific and context-relevant instrument for measuring clinical empathy in patient care. The JSE, developed by Mohammadreza Hojat, PhD more than two decades ago, is supported by extensive psychometric evidence of its validity and reliability in samples of medical and other health professions students and practitioners in the United States and abroad. Translated into 59 languages and used in 88 countries, the JSE is currently the most frequently used instrument for measuring clinical empathy.

The article reported highlights of selected empirical findings on clinical empathy by the Jefferson team and other national and international researchers. For example, it highlighted significant associations between scores on the JSE and measures of clinical competence, personal qualities that are conducive to relationship building, and group differences on the JSE scores by gender, race/ethnicity, academic background, and specialty interest. Empirical findings on erosion and enhancement of clinical empathy in health professions students and practitioners, as well as significant associations between physicians’ scores on the JSE and pertinent/tangible healthcare outcomes in diabetic patients in the U.S. and Italy were also reported, and plausible explanations were offered for psychosocial and neurobiological mechanisms that may link physician empathy and patient/healthcare outcomes.

The Jefferson findings, mostly replicated by national and international researchers, suggest that clinical empathy must be placed in the realm of evidence-based medicine, considered an essential element of overall professional competence, and incorporated into professional development of all health professionals-in-training and in-practice. Findings also suggested that to achieve the ultimate goal of training “caring” clinicians, assessing clinical empathy early, at least as a complementary measure in admissions decision making, to identify applicants who possess a higher propensity for empathic engagement and greater inclination to become “caring” clinicians, is highly desireable. The overarching conclusion of this article is that clinical empathy in patient care is a potent medicine with no adverse effects. 

A Treasure-Trove of Medical Education Research

We are pleased to announce the release of: “Fifty Years of Findings from the Jefferson Longitudinal Study of Medical Education,” a book published by Springer in 2022. A compendium of medical education research published in professional peer-reviewed journals, it describes findings from the most comprehensive, extensive, and uninterrupted longitudinal study of medical students and graduates maintained in a single medical school. The study began in 1970 based on the conviction that medical schools have a social responsibility and ethical obligation to monitor the quality of their educational programs, assess their educational outcomes, and ensure that their educational goals have been achieved. As described in the book’s Preface, the content of the book is classified into seven chapters addressing: admissions, demographics, medical school evaluations, postgraduate and career, psychosocial attributes, professionalism, and “miscellaneous” issues in medical education. Samples of remarks by medical education experts appearing in the book include: “From preclinical to postgraduate and beyond, this book provides a high-level view of the remarkable accomplishments over 50 years of study” (Leonard Calabrese, DO); “A wonderful compilation of outstanding work from a superb team of scientists, this book offers critical insights throughout the continuum of medical education” (Steven Kanter, MD); “For 50 years, Jefferson has conducted a series of studies of virtually every aspect of the process and outcomes of medical education. It is like an IMAX theatre presentation of the journey from applicant to student to resident to physician” (Geoffrey Norman, PhD). 

National Norms for the Jefferson Scale of Empathy: A Nationwide Project in Osteopathic Medical Education & Empathy

The study is the first of its kind to measure and examine reported empathy levels of students from 41 different osteopathic medical colleges, branch campuses and teaching sites.

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Hojat, Professor and Director of the Jefferson Longitudinal Study at the Center, has been selected by the American Association of Osteopathic Medicine as the recipient of the George W. Northup, DO, Medical Writing Award for the article, Empathy in Medicine National Norms for the Jefferson Scale of Empathy: A National Project in Osteopathic Medical Education and Empathy.

Areas of Research

Jefferson Scale of Empathy

The Jefferson Scale of Empathy (JSE) was developed by Dr. Mohammadreza Hojat and his colleagues at the Center to measure empathy in physicians and other health professionals (HP - version), medical students (S - version) and health professional students (HPS - version).

Disease Staging

This Instrument was developed to measure the problem solving skills of medical students, but was later used to document the quality and cost of care in California. Because of that work, the Center received a large federal grant to further develop the classification and stages of diseases.

Jefferson Longitudinal Study of Medical Education

This Study is the most comprehensive, extensive and uninterrupted tracking system of its kind maintained in a single academic medical center. It was implemented in 1970 with the intention to track all medical students at Thomas Jefferson University throughout their medical education and professional careers.

Medical Education Research

The Center works with the faculty to assess the effectiveness of the curriculum and its outcomes. In addition to the Longitudinal Study of Medical Education, this support involves maintenance of cumulative data bases for preclinical examinations in ExamSoft, NBME subject examinations, clinical skills assessments and students' ratings of clerkship experiences at affiliated clinical sites. Over the past five decades this support has fostered collaboration in medical education research on issues of concern to medical educators worldwide, yielding empirical evidence published in hundreds of peer-reviewed articles. 

Jefferson Scales for the Assessment of Educational & Patient Outcomes

The Scales are instruments which were developed for the assessment of professional development of health professionals in-training and in-practice, and for evaluation of educational outcomes.

Health Services Research

The Center receives external funding to support its health services and policy related research and quality improvement initiatives.