Empathy Walk

Name of the activity: Empathy Walk

Country/NMO: Brazil (IFMSA-Brazil)

Program: Ethics & Human Rights in Health

Contact information: [email protected]

Type of the activity: Campaign. Combination of education and advocacy. Campaigns create awareness in society about a certain topic (education aspect) and try to funnel this awareness into pressure on the decision makers to adapt policies accordingly (advocacy aspect).

General description:

The Empathy Walk was based on the itinerant Empathy Museum, which was set up in London in September 2015. The project focused on the exploration of empathy in the area of health, locating freshman students of the Medical School of Marília in the situation of minority groups. Issues such as autism, people with HIV, gender violence, religious intolerance, self image and social privileges were explored by us in 5 rooms. On each one, they stayed 10 minutes for a small sample of what it would be like to live in such groups. They were inserted into the daily reality of minority and vulnerable patients. Although it was a very delicate subject, and the result of a rather dense experience, the success of the activity became evident after the discussion between organizers and students at the end of the period.

Focus area:

Medical Ethics (Patient Centered Care, Good Medical Practice, direct doctor-patient relationship)

Problem statement:

The humanized attitude is not present in most health care spheres, what makes necessary that students receive constant training to develop this quality. It’s rare an educational institution with this concern, so empathy is an important concept in humanized attention. This happens because each individual has a story and different health needs. Thus, empathy should be a constant and ongoing subject in academic life, and freshman may be greatly benefited by early contact with this perception.

Target groups:

General population, Medical students


General population, Medical students, Healthcare Students, Other Students, Doctors, Other health professionals, Children, Youth, Women, HIV+ population

Objectives and indicators of success:

The main goal was to approach empathy in a practical way, allowing new medical students experience commom moments in the lives of members from stigmatized minority groups and instiganting the importance of putting themselves in the patient’s shoes.

The activity aimed also to allow students to come closer to understand the experience of some minorities, using real reports of outstanding situations related to each group, such as being HIV-positive, experiencing religion intolerance, being autistic, suffering from social stigmas, not valuing their own feelings and bodies and going through sexual abuse or harassment.

At the end of the activity, there was a meeting with all the students, who gave a very positive feedback, saying that they have really been touched. The IFMSA members that participated, but not as organizers, also gave a positive feedback through some questions on Likert scale.


There were 5 different rooms. The corridor in between was decorated with an exhibition of photos of overcoming childhoodcancer. 70 freshmen were divided into 5 groups, which stayed in each room for 10 minutes.

There was a simulation of a patient who should receive the HIV diagnosis of one freshman.

In other, we asked them to write what they would change in their bodies. After that, we showed the video “what would you change in your body”, with insecure adults and all well kids.

We used UNO, changing the rules of the game to distribute more letters to people with vulnerability.

There was an audio of domestic violence victims calling the police, in the dark. Then, each student read a data of violence against women in Brazil.

We showed 4 people: a Muslim, a Jew, a Umbandist, an atheist and asked them to say 1 negative and 1 positive thing about each one. Then they were invited to debate prejudice as a stereotype.

At the end, we showed them a video of “Carly’s Coffee” about autism.

Plans for evaluation:

We intent to develop other ways of measuring impact, such as writing down the student’s answers after the final talk in future activities. But, for now, we intent to verify the impact by talking to the participants and verifying if they have really understood the goals of the activity.

The evaluation was made through an online form sent to our local coordinators after the activity, with the following questions: (Being 0 to 5 the scale)

Did your definition of empathy change during the path?

What were the themes of the 6 rooms that you saw?

How do you evaluate the rooms’ organization in relation to trasmission of empathy within each theme?

Have you ever had contact with the theme of empathy before the activity?

After the activity, how do you define empathy?

a – affinity, b – charity, c – identification, d – sympathy

Have you been able to understand part of IFMSA Brazil’s work with this activity?

Suggestions, criticisms or comments about the activity and IFMSA Brazil FAMEMA.

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