Background: Empathy is one of the essential components of physician-patient relationship that has a significant effect on treatment outcomes. 
Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the empathy score among medical students in Mashhad, Iran. 
Methods: In this cross-sectional study in 2015, 624 medical students at Mashhad University of Medical Science (Iran) completed the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy (JSPE). Data were analyzed by SPSS ver. 16, using independent-samples t-test, Chi-square, MANOVA, Spearman correlation, and Confirmatory factor analysis.
Results: Of the 38.4% males and 65% females who participated in this study, the mean score of JSPE in the sample was 103.67 (±15.34) which was higher in women than in men. Also, the mean scores for each of the three factors of the scale were calculated. The total empathy score, compassionate care, and taking perspectives among different age groups were significant (p=0.000). Furthermore, students having high interest in their field were more empathic (p=0.008). Empathy of interns in relation to three areas of basic sciences (the first year, the second year and the first half of the third year), physiopathology (the second half of the third year, and the fourth year), and clinical trainings (the fifth year, and the first half of the sixth year), experienced significant reduction (p≤0.001).
Conclusions: This study showed that empathy was higher in women in their first medical year and who were of younger age. The overall rate of empathy in the basic sciences period was more than that in the clinical period. Therefore, the initial exposure to clinical education, especially patient education and empathy, has a very prominent effect on the ability of medical students.


Keywords: Empathy, Medical students, Jefferson scale of Physician Empathy


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