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On My Mind
October 2016

From Emotional Tsunami to Empathy

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Pediatrics, Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness, PolicyLab, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • 2Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(10):931. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.0981

Thin and dark-eyed, the teenaged boy first entered my primary care clinic a few years earlier when I was beginning my pediatric residency and he was beginning adolescence. During the time I have known him, I have helped him and his family manage his attention disorder, acne, and appendicitis. I thought one of his follow-up appointments would be routine. As I entered his clinic room that day, I was smiling, looking forward to learning how he had been doing in school.

Yet, on that day, his mood was somber. My enthusiasm was out of place. Usually bright and engaging, my patient was quiet at this visit. He looked exhausted. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Something seems different today.” Haltingly, he recounted a story about a fight with his friends and a sense of despair.

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