The Mission of the Altruism Medicine Institute is to promote and support rigorous, multi-disciplinary scientific investigation of the role of altruism and healthy mental states in fostering a more peaceful and happy society. Research and knowledge serve as the foundation for the promotion and education of altruism.
Furthermore, our mission is to investigate the critical role altruism and positive mental states play in the education of our youth to sustain a healthy society. Healthy self-confidence and inner happiness are cornerstones for the development of a healthy society. Strengthened through the credibility of scientific research, our mission is then to educate healthcare educators, providers, leaders, patients, and the public.
Our commitment to a multi-disciplinary approach guides our dialogues among experts in the fields of science of the mind, medical sciences, social sciences, contemplative practice, philosophy, the arts, and the humanities.
We believe that only through this integrated approach can we achieve an accurate understanding of how the mind can transform and fully ripen our mental and physical health. Furthermore, this multi-disciplinary approach seeks the best ways to train mental fitness, and the best practices for achieving mental and emotional wellbeing.
The Altruism Medicine Institute recognizes the potential of a world that fully understands the critical importance of altruism and positive mental states in enhancing physical and mental health.
Moreover, we envision a world where everyone has access to culturally appropriate mental and physical healthcare. Healthcare delivery is enhanced when combined with integrity, trust, and compassion.
Our Mission and Strategy is based on scientific research demonstrating the importance of altruism and positive mental states in enhancing our immune system and overall health that support and advance our Vision.
Altruism in Medicine teaches compassion and ethics in medical and nursing schools globally. Within the past year, we have worked with Stanford University, the University o Hong Kong, and the University of Oxford. We are designing curricula fo teachin compassion and ethics to healthcare professional students in six countries. Our curricula include two approaches:
Direct Approach teaches compassion by focusing on the kindnesses that others provide in our lives, usually indirectly.
In the Direct Approach, we train people to recogniz kindness in others by grouping all people into 3 categories: those we love, those who are strangers, and those we don’t like. Recognizing kindness in people we love is easy, but seeing kindness in strangers and people we don’t like is difficult. Recognizing the role strangers play in providing all our necessary resources makes it easier. Seeing those we dislike as teachers who help us reign in our anger also makes it easier.
In small group activities, we examine our approach to strangers, who are the majorportion of our health care system. Through experiential discussions, healthcare professionals examine their relationships with patients and team members. They learn to recognize in their language and actions whether the relationship is one of equals or superior/subordinate – physician/patient – doctor/nurse. They learn ways to replace arrogance with compassion.
We observe how strangers help us in everyday activities – to become more appreciative of these less familiar acts of kindness, e.g. the simple act of eating a meal. This requires a myriad of strangers who grow, transport, package, prepare, and market the food. This realization helps us recognize we are part of a global community working together to better our lives. We become grateful for the contribution of others and thus closer to them.
Over time with practice, we redirect our focus from “me” to “we”. This attitudinal shift from selfishness to selflessness and compassion becomes a tidal change in our approach to others. We become one – doctor and patient as a team, to improve health outcomes.
This global perspective gives context to our actions as healthcare providers. When we become grateful for the contributions of others, we are more cognizant of the contributions from our patients (and colleagues). This enables healthcare providers to establish a partnership with patients that engender trust. For those we don’t like and sometimes become angry with, they become teachers for us to work on reducing our anger.
As healthcare workers, realizing that all people want the same thing – to be happy and not to hurt – changes our attitudes towards our patients. It enables us to see past the friction in the relationship. Healthcare providers are also keenly aware that every person is 99.9% genetically identical to every other person, but we tend to focus on the differences between people. Healthcare workers must identify the differences to identify and treat specific illnesses. But in doing so, they cannot lose sight of the commonality of all people, which will help them become more compassionate and closer to their patients.
Indirect Approach focuses inward and helps open the floodgates of our hearts to compassion. The Indirect Approach includes six components:
- Generosity – Working with patients should be seen as an act of generosity. Physicians and nurses are indeed part of a service profession. When healthcare workers view patients like close family members, they automatically add a component of compassion. A smile, a hug, or a reassuring word shows a sense of concern and empathy, with little “cost” of time or effort yet huge rewards.
- Tolerance – Healthcare workers should examine where a patient is coming from – which includes their physical pain and their psychological pain from relationships, work, or finances. In a non‐judgmental fashion, healthcare professionals should appreciate how these ancillary pains add stresses that materialize as, or exacerbate, disease or illness.
- Ethical Discipline – Healthcare workers should set their internal compass towards integrity, honesty and transparency. They do this through self-reflection and meditation – to familiarize the mind with what is wholesome – that which reduces hurt and increases happiness. Meditation helps doctors and nurses practice emotional hygiene to clean up destructive emotions, like anger, jealousy, and pride. They can then better guide their patients towards emotional hygiene, and teach them healthy lifestyles and healthy self-confidence. “Do No Harm” includes the triad of mind‐body‐ consciousness.
- Perseverance – this is the old adage, “never give up.”
- Concentration – to build our ability to concentrate on an issue and gain clarity for wider perspective and better decisions.
- Wisdom – to know ourselves correctly, humbly, without arrogance or self-deprecation. Reduce our attachment to our ego.
Tangible Results & Measureable Outcomes
To date, most of our “results” are admittedly anecdotal. The growing interest in Altruism in Medicine is reflected in the number of requests we have had to present Medical and Surgical Grand Rounds. Over the past month we have addressed physicians at Stanford University School of Medicine and Ventura County Medical Center. Previously we presented compassion in medicine at the University of Washington, Taipei Medical University, and Smith College. In every occasion, the feedback has been extremely positive with people saying “this has made a huge difference in my life”. Students state that the Altruism in Medicine courses have given them broader outlooks regarding integrity in medicine and compassion for patients. They also find a deeper satisfaction
and happiness in their healthcare work.
We are preparing to analyze outcome measures more sytematically through longitudinal studies following life choices and behavior. AIMI will partner with Stanford CCARE to assess and study outcome. The analytical data will cover both healthcare professionals and patients. Specifically, we are designing criteria to determine the impact Altruism in Medicine’s compassion- based teaching has on healthcare professionals’:
• Relationships (professional and personal)
• Addictive behavior
• Depression and suicide
We also will assess the impact on patients’:
• Medical outcome
• Life-‐satisfaction measures