Humans are driven by emotions. They influence nearly every decision we make. But does a surgeon feel guilt when they cut into a live human body? Does an oncologist feel shame when prescribing a drug with horrendous side effects?

The science behind those questions was addressed by Dr Lynne Reeder, founder of Australia21’s Mindful Futures Network, in an innovative symposium about the role of mindfulness in medicine. The discussion at Melbourne University’s MD Student Conference called on the audience to appreciate the links between emotions and decision making as they transitioned to careers as clinicians.

Drawing upon new neuroscientific research, combined with expert clinical experience, Lynne and her guests explored the complex role of compassion and empathy in medicine, and showed participants how to decrease the risks of negative emotion-driven decision-making.

Lynne was joined by:

Elizabeth Rider, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, who teaches and consults internationally on relationship-centred care, communication skills, professionalism, reflective practice, narrative, and healthcare education program development.

Matthew Hadfield, specialist vascular surgeon, who is Director of Surgery at Ballarat Health Services and a member of the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Matthew addressed surgical compassion, looking at the barriers and enablers.

Jamie Bristow, who is Director of The Mindfulness Initiative, the world’s first policy institute about mindfulness. Jamie told the group that mindfulness based cognitive therapy has been available on the UK National Health Service since 2004 and is a mandated priority treatment to help people stay well after they’ve been depressed three times or more. There is also good evidence to recommend mindfulness training for the treatment of other common disorders including anxiety and some long term physical health conditions such as pain, living with cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Jamie joined the symposium via video. Click below to view his presentation:

You can read more about the speakers at the bottom of this page and see photos from the symposium on our Facebook page:

Mapping mindfulness, empathy & compassion

Australia21’s Mindful Futures Network is mapping the benefits of mindfulness, empathy and compassion in public and private organisations. It’s an important part of our work researching and promoting sound decision making that leads to fair, sustainable and inclusive public policy.

Right now, we’re also:

Australia21 doesn’t receive any large government or corporate funding and we’re not allied to any political party. We rely primarily on donations and philanthropic grants to do our work, so we make sure a little goes a very long way. With the equivalent of just one funded full-time position, and the expertise of a hands-on volunteer Board, we mobilise around 2600 hours of pro bono work each year including contributions from hundreds of external experts and policy-makers from around the country.

In 2018-19 we’re aiming to build on our research and initiatives in drug harm reduction, PTSD, inequality, the future of work and the Mindful Futures Network; we’re also planning a renewed focus on environmental issues and other risks to human survival. You can help Australia21 shape a better future by clicking on the link:


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