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If you could stand in someone else's shoes... Hear what they hear. See what they see. Feel what they feel. Would you treat them differently?

These words end this incredibly beautiful video produced by the Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. We spend quite a bit of effort here at On Being focusing on the sound of the human voice and how each guest adds to our collective discussion. We attempt to draw out the best of their stories and experiences in all its messiness and glory. This video speaks to each person's complexity, the stories that go unsaid but float just beneath the surface.

Titled "Empathy," this video was presented by the health care organization's CEO Toby Cosgrove at his annual State of the Clinic address on February 27, 2013. And it gets at a point that immunologist Esther Sternberg explores in her work and personal life: how new knowledge about the physical spaces of our lives can stress us, make us sick, or help us be well and connect with others.

For so many years, our hospitals and clinics were sterile, perfunctory structures that ignored the humanity of its patients and focused on the programmatic structure of its spaces. Ms. Sternberg explains:

"Hospitals are built like mazes because typically you have the old original small hospital building and then they keep adding wings to it, which hospitals until recently were designed really to optimize the diagnostic tools, you know, the X-ray equipment and the blood-drawing and so on rather than the human being that's going to be in that building. Airports too. Just think about an airport."

Folks like John Cary of Public Interest Design and others are at the forefront of a burgeoning field focusing on human-centered design. And, the nonprofit organization The Center for Health Design launched an initiative in 2000 called the Pebble Project, which uses an evidence-based design approach to "better understand the implications of the built environment on healthcare outcomes." They're learning how the built environment can affect everything from medication errors at cancer institutes to the efficacy rates of recovery with acuity-adaptable rooms (staying in the same room for admission to discharge) to the way caregivers work. They're not only collaborating with healthcare providers and medical industry partners, they're also drawing from the expertise of architects and design firms such as Herman Miller.

In the end, it's about human connection. When we relate to those around us by understanding their back stories and their circumstances, we improve the way we work, the way we live, the way we take care of one another, the way we relate going forward and, as Martin Luther King Jr. would say, building the "beloved community" that edifies us all.

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215 Comments

Thank you for making me stop & think- and shed a few tears.

Last Friday I was admitted to ER for a day. I totally understand the feelings of everyone in the video. I appreciate very much every medical personnel working in the hospital. They were friendly, helpful, and caring. It is not easy for them to work through their workdays with people who are in pain, unhappy, and cranky. We, as patients, do not need to add to their stress by complaining or yelling at them for our pain and uncomfortableness. I thank all medical personnel for choosing the medical field and taking care of us.

A picture is worth thousand words. Emotion and feelings are such important parts in our daily lives.

I love the show, On Being. It always give me hope and rejuvenates my soul. I just watched the Empathy video which a friend passed on for reflection. Empathy is so important in our lives. It makes us more human, kinder, more loving. Thank you.

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Such a beautiful presentation of what a hospital and healthcare should be... the very reason why some of us want to be healthcare workers other than getting a steady paycheck.

Beautiful message! All physicians should be requied to view this.

good stuff--would like to email

Everyone has a story to tell and a challenge to take, that makes life interesting. Be a support to whoever is in need in any small way.

I'm glad they're paying attention to people, not just sterile places. But both are necessary in hospitals and other health places. International Women's Day is March 8. That's Cindy wang's birthday. She's now an opthalmologist in Boston and the mother of four children. Of course, she has full time help. So you remember the Wangs? They had lived on Orchard Grove. He had taught at RPI and left to teach at Oklahoma U in Norman, Oklahoma.
A friend here goes to the Cleveland Clinic. IT's not so far from Pittsburgh.

bobby;this is marvellous video,very touching,keep it up,God Bless

As a 4th year medical student, this feels like one of the most important pieces of education material I've ever seen. I'll be sure to share it with my colleagues in medicine....and in every other part of my life. From a deep place of gratitude, thank you.

Just amazing.. thanks

It's one touching video. Tells you about the journey of life. Although at a hardest situation, they can still draw a smile and their face and continue their daily life.

Enjoyed the Video and How very True! Everyone we meet is fighting some kind of battle, we just don't always know what it is. Be kind and continue to strive for Treating others the Way you want to be Treated....The way the Good Book teaches us to do!

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