Reported to be $100 million, the gift will create and launch the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion within the UC San Diego School of Medicine. With the aim of developing new ways of promoting the well-being of clinicians and their patients, the institute will identify and map brain activity created by empathic behavior, quantify the factors that promote or inhibit compassionate behavior, and design new methods for boosting empathic signals in the brain.
In addition to integrating compassion-centered methods into training modules, the institute will address the issue of burnout among physician and other health professions, including medical students, through validated instruction of self-compassion, mindfulness training, and a heightened focus on mental health.
"I have been inspired by the work and teachings of the Dalai Lama, whose interest in the intersection where science and faith meet is deep and profound," said Sanford. "I have had the opportunity to see how grace, humanity, and kindness can change people and the world. This gift extends that vision. Doctors work in a world where compassion is essential, but often lost in the harsh realities of modern medicine. If we can help medical professionals preserve and promote their compassion, based on the findings of hard science, the world can be a happier, healthier place."