Empathy and Mindfulness Research With David Rakel, MD

In addition to being a sought-after educator and lecturer, David Rakel, MD, has conducted research into the effects of mindfulness and empathy in medicine. Some of his findings include the following:

  • Empathetic clinicians can reduce the duration of the common cold.1
  • Mindfulness interventions may reduce burnout for healthcare providers.2
  • Meditation and exercise can reduce acute respiratory infection rates.3

In the video below, Dr. Rakel discusses how he has changed his approach toward the treatment of depression over the course of his career.

Dr. Rakel is professor and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, as well as editor of several textbooks and editor-in-chief of

Key Points:

  • How fluoxetine was once his favorite prescription
  • Prescription vs. placebo
  • How to improve efficacy and shorten duration of anti-depressants


  1. Rakel D, Barrett B, Zhang Z, et al. Perception of empathy in the therapeutic encounter: effects on the common cold. Patient Educ Couns. 2011;85(3):390-397. doi:1016/j.pec.2011.01.009
  2. Fortney L, Luchterhand C, Zakletskaia L, Zgierska A, Rakel D. Abbreviated mindfulness intervention for job satisfaction, quality of life, and compassion in primary care clinicians: a pilot study. Ann Fam Med. 2013;11(5):412-420. doi:1370/afm.1511
  3. Barrett B, Hayney MS, Muller D, et al. Meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infection (MEPARI-2): a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2018;13(6):e0197778. doi:1371/journal.pone.0197778

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