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CBCT Study at Emory School of Medicine

An increasing body of research suggests that for medical students the stress of academic and psychological demands can impair social and emotional well-being. For this reason, a group of Emory researchers and meditation scholars - including Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi (Religion), Carol Worthman (Anthropology), Andrew Miller (Psychiatry), and Jennifer Mascaro (Center for the Study of Human Health) - conducted a pilot study to better understand the experiences of second year medical students. 

The study was designed to examine students' overall well-being and to investigate whether a type of meditation training, Cognitively-based Compassion Training (CBCT) could make students' lives more satisfying and sustainable. Almost half of the second year class volunteered for the study; of those, half were randomized to 10 weeks of CBCT and the other half to a wait-list control group that would be given a chance to enroll in CBCT at a later time. Compared to the wait-list group, students randomized to CBCT reported increased compassion, decreased loneliness and depression, and improved sleep. Of particular interest to the researchers, changes in compassion were most robust in individuals reporting high levels of depression at the outset of the study, suggesting that CBCT may benefit those most in need by breaking the link between personal suffering and a concomitant drop in compassion. While this was only a pilot study, it supports the idea that CBCT may be an effective practice for increasing student well-being and for bolstering the feelings of compassion that impact clinical practice and patient outcome.

Provided by Jenny Mascaro