Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 1483–1494 | Cite as

The Tzu Chi Silent Mentor Program: Application of Buddhist Ethics to Teach Student Physicians Empathy, Compassion, and Self-Sacrifice

  • Scott Santibañez
  • Debra Boudreaux
  • Guo-Fang Tseng
  • Kimberly Konkel
Original Paper


The Buddhist Tzu Chi Silent Mentor Program promotes the donation of one’s body to science as a selfless act by appealing to the Buddhist ethics of compassion and self-sacrifice. Together, faculty, families, and donors help medical students to learn the technical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological aspects of medicine. Students assigned to each “Silent Mentor” visit the family to learn about the donor’s life. They see photos and hear family members’ stories. Afterwards, students write a brief biography of the donor which is posted on the program website, in the medical school, and on the dissection table. In this paper, we: (1) summarize the Silent Mentor Program; (2) describe findings from an assessment of medical students who recently completed a new version of the program in Malaysia; and (3) explore how healthcare settings could benefit from this innovative program.


Buddhism Ethics Medical education Empathy Wholistic medicine 



The authors would like to thank colleagues Drs. John Blevins and Mimi Kiser of Emory University, and the many faculties, medical students, families, and especially the Silent Mentors who contributed to the success of this program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rollins School of Public HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Buddhist Tzu Chi FoundationSan DimasUSA
  3. 3.Department of Anatomy and Medical Simulation CenterTzu Chi UniversityHualienTaiwan
  4. 4.Washington, DCUSA

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