How physician empathy influences patients

Published 29 days ago • 8 min read

Sunday Edition • April 21, 2024


Taking a cue from Mary’s famous four-legged friend, four little lambs have been going to school. This isn’t the setup to another nursery rhyme, though — it’s a real-life program in Pennsylvania that’s helping children build literacy skills. The brainchild of Laura Jacob, superintendent of a school district outside Pittsburgh, the initiative is based on research that suggests having animals as an audience aids in developing kids’ reading abilities. “The best thing about reading to the lambs is that they never judge of how good you read,” 9-year-old Gracie Juarez told NBC News, adding: “They just listen.” Watch the adorable lambs work their magic.

Featured Story

Physician Empathy Tied to Better Outcomes for Chronic Pain Patients: Study

New research is underscoring the importance of physician empathy within doctor-patient relationships.

Published April 11, the study tracked 1,470 adults with chronic low back pain over the course of 12 months. Patients who were treated by “very empathic” physicians and patients who were treated by “slightly empathic” physicians both reported on outcomes relating to pain levels, function, and health-related quality of life.

The findings — which also compared physician empathy to treatments like opioid therapy and even surgery — are compelling. Dig into the results below to learn why empathy is especially influential in chronic pain patients.

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This Week’s Top Stories


NASA’s Newest Earth-Observing Satellite Delivers Vivid Views of Our Planet

NASA’s newest Earth-observing satellite, PACE, launched Feb. 8 to gather data on ocean health, air quality, and climate change, with the aim of making the information openly available to the scientific community. Now, the satellite’s Ocean Color Instrument has returned its first visuals of our planet, and they’re incredibly vibrant.

Per the space agency, the instrument “observes the ocean, land, and atmosphere across a spectrum of ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared light.” While previous, similar instruments were only able to detect a handful of wavelengths, PACE can detect over 200.

These stunning images are furthering NASA’s commitment to protect our home planet,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement, adding: “From coastal communities to fisheries, NASA is gathering critical climate data for all people.”

“First light from the PACE mission is a major milestone in our ongoing efforts to better understand our changing planet,” Nelson continued. “Earth is a water planet, and yet we know more about the surface of the moon than we do our own oceans.”


Ciao! All About Italy’s New Digital Nomad Visa

Imagine: Your “home office” is a terrace in Tuscany or a museum cafe in Florence. This scene could be your Zoom background (and we’re not talking the virtual variety), thanks to Italy’s recently launched digital nomad visa.

As of this month, the Italian government is allowing individuals who meet certain criteria to work in the country for up to a year. Other European countries that offer similar programs include Spain, Portugal, Croatia, and Greece.

“The digital nomad visa is a game changer,” Thea Duncan, whose company helps people relocate to Italy, told Afar. “It’s the best thing that’s happened to immigrating to Italy since sliced bread. It is going to make it so much easier for professionals to move to Italy.”

Wondering what makes someone a digital nomad? Per Euronews, the country defines them as a citizen of a non-EU state “who carries out a highly qualified work activity with the use of technological tools capable of allowing them to work remotely.” Click here for the scoop on eligibility requirements and how to apply.


Want to Relieve Anger? Write and Release, Research Finds

We all know the feeling when it hits: tight jaw, elevated heart rate, tense muscles. While anger is both a normal human emotion and physiological reaction, understanding how to regulate it is essential.

A recent study out of Japan identified a powerful yet simple solution. Researchers found that writing down a reaction to a negative incident on a piece of paper and then getting rid of it — shredding or crumpling it into a ball and discarding in a trash can — helps release welling frustration.

The authors believe the results could be connected to the phenomenon of “backward magical contagion,” which is the idea “that actions taken on an object (e.g. hair) associated with an individual can affect the individuals themselves,” per the study.

“We expected that our method would suppress anger to some extent,” lead researcher Nobuyuki Kawai said in a press release. “However, we were amazed that anger was eliminated almost entirely.” He added that the method could be particularly beneficial for employees: “This technique could be applied in the moment by writing down the source of anger as if taking a memo and then throwing it away when one feels angry in a business situation.”

Sunday Selections

What to Watch

Conan O’Brien Must Go

Fans of Conan O’Brien will tell you that pretty much everything the former Late Night host does is funny — whether that’s riling up his assistant or interviewing comedy legends. So it’s extra special that those enthusiasts are precisely who his new docuseries is devoted to. The show, which premiered Thursday on Max, sees the comedian visiting locales across the globe to surprise fans and serving up his brand of endearingly madcap humor along the way.

Something We Love

The Citizenry Handcrafted Pillows and Throws

Been searching for the perfect throw pillow or blanket? Look no further than The Citizenry. The handcrafted items hit the mark on both style and quality, but the company’s social impact mission is the real draw. The Citizenry is committed to sustainability, pays its artisans two times the fair trade wage requirement, and is the largest U.S. home retailer to have 100% of its products made with a fair trade process.

Recommendations are independently selected by our team but may result in a commission.

This Week in History

Ancient Rome Is Founded

April 21, 753 B.C.

Rome may not have been built in a day, but it was founded in one. (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.) Myth has it that demigod brothers Remus and Romulus established the ancient city on this day 2,776 years ago and then went on to argue over who would rule it — a quarrel that ended in Remus’ death. Per, that legend originated sometime in the fourth century B.C., while the actual date of Rome’s founding was set by scholar Marcus Terentius Varro in the first century B.C. Fast forward to modern times, and the historic Italian locale is one of the top city destinations in the world, welcoming millions of tourists every year.

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Quote of the Day

“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.”


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