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The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer

Reflections of a Physician-Chaplain

by (author) Agnes M.F. Wong

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2021
Terminal Care
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price

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The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer offers a succinct, all-in-one introduction to the full gamut of compassion, from the evolutional, biological, behavioural, and psychological, to the social, philosophical, and spiritual. Drawing on her diverse background as a clinician, scientist, educator, and chaplain, Dr. Wong presents a wealth of scientific evidence supporting that compassion is both innate and trainable. By interleaving personal experiences and reflections, she shares her insights on what it takes to cultivate compassion to support the art of medicine and caregiving. The training described in this book draws on both contemplative and scientific disciplines to help clinicians develop cognitive, attentional, affective, and somatic skills that are critical for the cultivation of compassion. With striking illustrations for key concepts and concise summaries for each chapter, this book provides a solid conceptual framework and practical approaches to cultivate compassion.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Dr. Agnes M. F. Wong, MD, PhD, FRCSC, is Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology, and Psychology at the University of Toronto, and an active staff Ophthalmologist at The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Dr. Wong received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Biology from Boston University, Doctor of Medicine degree from McGill University, and Doctor of Philosophy degree in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto. Her clinical training included Ophthalmology residency and Neuro-Ophthalmology fellowship at the University of Toronto, and Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.

Editorial Reviews

"Dr. Agnes Wong, a highly distinguished physician and exceptional researcher at the University of Toronto, has written an absolutely uplifting masterpiece about meaning, compassionate care, and the universal journey that all healers must take to sustain their inner being and nobility of purpose. This book is partly her journey to a deeper state of being that places compassionate care its rightful place in the healing art; it is also a fabulous scientific presentation of the practice and impact of compassionate care on patients and on one's own flourishing as a physician. This is a book that touches the soul and should be read by every medical student or clinician worldwide as they reflect on what is means to really succeed in their 'whole selves' as healers and human beings."

--Stephen G. Post, PhD, Director, Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics; Professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine, Stony Brook University

"Well-written, deeply personal and scientifically-grounded, this book provides strong physiological, psychological, and ethical reasons why cultivating compassion is essential-and provides a thoughtful roadmap for promoting compassion in healthcare and in all of life."

--Ron Epstein, MD, author of Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity

Advance Praise for The Art and Science of Compassion, A Primer:

"Compassion and empathy are traits that make us human, and as Dr. Wong shows, these qualities can be developed, encouraged, and cultivated. In our struggling world, we need this awareness as never before. The future of our species likely depends on it. This book is an example of how science and spirituality can come together in a brilliant synthesis."

--Larry Dossey, MD, author of One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters