Jun 26, 2024

Leading with compassion and connection

Naylor Building with garden in the foreground

As we come to the end of the academic year and I come to the end of my term as Interim Dean, I extend my sincere gratitude to each member of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine community.  

Your exceptional efforts contribute to our ongoing success in delivering world-class medical education and ground-breaking research. Your dedication ensures that Temerty Medicine continuously ranks amongst the world’s top institutions. 

As we celebrate our achievements, we also acknowledge that our community has been tested by global events that have sown distress and division here and permeated the places we teach, learn and work. 

Over the past months, I have found inspiration and hope in the work of Stephen Trzeciak, a critical-care clinician and compassion researcher at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, New Jersey.  

Trzeciak’s research explores “the healthcare compassion crisis” — a disconnect between patient and caregiver that significantly impacts patient health, clinician resilience and health-care systems at large. This divide is driven by competing demands on an individual’s time and capacity as well as system resources that inhibit meaningful connections with patients, our colleagues and each other.  

According to Trzeciak, it takes just 40 seconds of undivided attention to establish a compassionate connection — to pause, look up from screens and charts, make eye contact and truly listen.  

Compassionate connections improve clinician resilience, personal fulfillment and professional success. Best of all, compassion can be practised anywhere and by anyone to strengthen relationships with colleagues, family, friends and even strangers. Forty seconds. In a time when we are so divided, this practice may not be a solution, but it is a place to begin and a place to which we can return. 

In health care, compassion and connection should be our North Star. It can light the way and guide us when the road is treacherous and seems impassable. 

In times like these, compassion can also keep us on the path to fulfilling our shared mandate to provide excellent health care, world-class education in health sciences, globally impactful research and discovery, and to create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all. 

Like any skill, compassion takes practice. I hope we will embrace this practice in our daily interactions and our personal and professional endeavours. 

I also hope we all find the time to rest, refresh and care for ourselves over the summer. Thank you again for your dedication, commitment and the compassion you contribute to the Temerty Medicine community. 


Patricia Houston 
Interim Dean and Interim Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions 
Vice Dean, Medical Education 
Temerty Faculty of Medicine 
University of Toronto