Empathy Learned Through an Extended Medical Education Virtual Reality Project

It is particularly important that innovative learning modalities are utilized to augment our University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine UNECOM medical students' learning about empathy in relation to older adult health care. Currently those age 65 years and older use more than 50% of health care resources. As the older population increases and lives longer, their health care utilization is predicted to increase dramatically, therefore placing an obligation on our 126s to work with older 88 within primary care as well as any medical specialty. We plan to utilize a virtual reality VR experience for 1st year medical students. Specifically, we will incorporate the 'We Are Alfred' software developed by Embodied Labs, a company that creates immersive, interactive, VR experiences for health training. 'We Are Alfred' uses a VR headset, headphones, and a hand-tracking device to immerse users in the story of a 74-year-old patient, the titular Alfred. The virtual experience will immerse each UNECOM 1st year medical student into a hypothetical patient's life, thus imparting knowledge to the medical students about aging, dignity, and the importance of making meaningful connections in order to thrive. VR kits will be available at University of New England UNE Library Services, and 1st year medical students will access the equipment from the circulation desk with a student ID and complete an assignment associated with geriatrics training as part of the geriatrics curriculum. Students will be introduced to information resources available from the National Library of Medicine NLM related to older 88' health, geared to providers, patients, and their families. A pre/post assessment will aid in assessing students' experiences including changes in attitude and knowledge.

Project Details

Organization Name

University of New England - Jack S. Ketchum Library

Organization Type
Academic institution
Project Lead


Start Date
November 1, 2016
End Date
April 30, 2017
Funding Amount
Student, College & Post-grad
Educator, College & Post-grad
General Public
Library or Information Professional
Seniors (65+ yrs.)