A Lesson in Compassion

What's it like to be a patient? For more and more aspiring doctors, there's only one way to find out.

Ellen Weiss can hardly see. David Schmitt can barely hear. Together, the elderly woman, who suffers from diabetes, congestive heart failure and arthritis, and the widower, who is recovering from a hip fracture, slowly shift through the halls of Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, N.J. Typical victims of aging's cruelest blows? Not really. Weiss is actually a resident in family practice, age 30, and Schmitt a medical student, 26. They have been assigned roles, ages and infirmities as an innovative part of their medical training.

Introduced in only a few medical centers so far, such role playing is designed to expose...

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