Help Us Teach the Art
and Practice of Compassion.

Your gift is doubly effective: it reduces distress and rebuilds well-being for hundreds of frail, socially isolated elders. At the same time it builds the core competencies in tomorrow’s health care leaders that ensure the sick and injured in future generations will be treated with compassion.

Your gift honors the past, improves the present, and invests in the future.

We earn the funds to cover most of our overhead so that at least 86% of your donation will be committed to this unique program.

One therapeutic dose of compassion
The three greatest fears of aging are:

    • A long disabling illness.
    • Institutionalization.
    • Abandonment.

Our volunteer interns befriend 1,400 chronically and critically ill elderly patients in Santa Barbara’s nursing homes and hospital units for whom these fears are all too real. Most have no other visitors.

Social isolation is looming large as a risk factor endangering health and well-being in later life. Compared to more well-known risk factors, low social interaction is equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic. It is more harmful than not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity, according to research by Holt-Lundstad & Smith published in the journal PLOS Medicine (2010).

Suffering in later life, according to research by Balfour Mount, MD, of McGill University in Montreal, does not correlate with physical illness. Instead, our suffering correlates with the sense of isolation or disconnectedness, which can happen even in a room full of people. Dr. Mount described it as the absence of healing connections—those meaningful, caring moments of genuine connectedness that are so rarely experienced in institutional health care settings.

The Medicine of Compassion Service-Learning Internship delivers thousands of such moments, regularly and with reliably high quality. As a result we restore seven distinct and fundamental elements of well-being. These moments of connectedness reduce distress and make life worth living for those who are seriously ill or injured, even in their final days of life.

It is this art that we are teaching—the skillful, active use of compassion to transform human suffering and restore well-being. This is the practical alchemy of compassion as the universal solvent—to solve, dissolve, and resolve the hard feelings, harsh thoughts, and bitter experiences of sickness and trauma.

It is no small thing to rebuild well-being simply by the way you interact with someone. Proficiency is accomplished through a one-year internship for undergraduate students who are pursuing careers in health care. As a result, future doctors and nurses learn the art of treating patients with compassion.

This year we expect 100 students to participate. Following extensive training, each student commits to one or more years of service. Their gift of time, friendship, and wholehearted listening vastly improves a person’s well-being in their latter years.