About the Institute

Modern health care is fueled by technology, by steady progress in areas like precision medicine, molecular imaging, neurobiology and cognitive science. But more fundamentally, health care is about people, about our diverse natures and about our ability to understand, sympathize and support each other and ourselves.

Catalyzed by his vision and generosity, the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion at University of California San Diego was founded with a generous donation in July 2019. The Institute represents an unprecedented blending of two parallel themes, employing the unyielding rigor and tools of science to establish the neurological basis for empathy in the brain, to identify the mechanisms that transform compassion from biology to behavior and to develop new ways to teach and instill empathy and compassion in clinicians currently practicing and in the teaching of future generations of health professionals.

The Process

The time is right for a compassion-driven change. The time is now. Advances in brain imaging and the neurosciences allow previously unimaginable insights into the workings of the human mind, but not necessarily how to translate that knowledge into a benefit for patients or providers.

A physician’s ability to engage compassionately demonstrably influences how a patient feels during and after a visit — good communication is as intrinsic to accurate diagnosis as the most sophisticated instrument or test, and crucial to ensuring optimal outcomes. On the other side of the stethoscope, physician burnout, depression and suicide have become national health crises. Physicians need help to heal themselves.

Harnessing the deep neurobiological resources and expertise in social sciences, engineering, data science and other disciplines throughout UC San Diego, its international reputation for collaboration and innovative thought, the Sanford Institute will seek answers and remedies, the means to a new era of health care based upon compassion validated by science.