School of Primary, Aboriginal and Rural Health Care

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Empathy in Society Symposium

Friday, 26th October 2018, 9am-5pm Empathy handshake
Institute of Advanced Studies, UWA


Today, empathy is generally considered to be a self-evident good. We try to teach our children empathy by encouraging them to imagine what it would be like to ‘walk in another’s shoes’. Scholarly interest in emotions such as empathy, sometimes termed the ‘affective turn’, has defined them as embodied feelings experienced in the context of cultural values and principles. Empathy is increasingly seen to be an essential skill particularly for medical students and doctors alongside technical knowledge, so as to establish trust, the foundation of a good doctor-patient relationship.

Over the last decade, a substantial body of research has argued that more empathetic doctors can be linked to greater patient satisfaction, better outcomes, decreased physician burnout, and a lower risk of malpractice suits and errors. Empathy is considered by some as a cognitive skill that can be taught, rather than a personality trait, and so empathy training is increasingly being incorporated into medical courses around the world. Frequently such teaching is premised upon the belief that fictional narratives, art, or music may effectively convey another’s experience and allow the observer an enlarged understanding of their plight.

This event explores current approaches to empathy and its cultural implications, drawing from a wide range of disciplines including medicine, psychology, history, law, literary studies and philosophy.


Download the full symposium flyer below:

Empathy Symposium [PDF, 140.1 KB]
Updated 18 Sep 2018

Past Events

tubaMusic and health: A one day symposium

2nd Sept, 2017, 9am - 5pm - SOLD OUT

This one day symposium on Music and Health is part of a UWA Research Collaboration Award project that will bring together multi-disciplinary researchers from WA together with two researchers from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sydney.

The keynote address will be given by Dr. Bronwen Ackermann, Australia’s leading researcher and musician – specialist clinician in performing arts medicine, who is renowned world-wide for her work in the field. Dr. Cliffton Chan will present a practical workshop on exercise for musicians. There is no cost to attendees, but seating is strictly limited and advanced bookings are essential. 

This event is part of UWA's Research Week. 

More information


old manDepth of field: Exploring stroke recovery

Tue 5th – Sat 9th Sept, 2017, 11 am to 5pm, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery - Free Event

‘Depth of Field’ is a growing body of research that uses documentary style photographs and audio-narrated film of health care experience of patients for widespread use in education.

This exhibition will showcase images by Steve Wise and stories of three WA stroke patients and their families as they account the honest and raw reality of what life is really like following a stroke.

The images and narratives will be used as a reflective learning resource to challenge current and future health professionals through reflection to move beyond “diagnosis” to more humanistic models of care.

Visitors, please note that the exhibition will be unavailable on Wednesday 6th September, 1pm to 4pm. 

This event is part of UWA's Research Week.

More information


heartBook Launch: Shaping the Fractured Self

Thurs 20th July 2017, 6:00 - 7:30pm

Presented by UWA Publishing. 

Shaping the Fractured Self showcases twenty-eight of Australia’s finest poets who happen to live with chronic illness and pain. The autobiographical short essays, in conjunction with the three poems from each of the poets, capture the body in trauma in its many and varied moods. Because those who live with chronic illness and pain experience shifts in their relationship to it on a yearly, monthly or daily basis, so do the words they use to describe it.

Shaping the Fractured Self will be launched by writer, scholar and contributor Rachel Robertson. The launch will also feature readings from contributing poet Kevin Gillam and editor Heather Taylor Johnson. 

More information 



Art & Heart: Autonomic Undergrowth & the Polyvagal Theory of Stephen Porges

by ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100-1800)

Speaker: Professor Alex Cohen (The University of Western Australia)
Date: Wednesday 2 November 2016
Time: 6-7pm
Venue: The Austin Lecture Theatre, (Arts 1.59) The University of Western Australia
Registration: While this is a free event, registration is required.

In the late nineteenth century, the study of the human flourished – both as an entity of flesh, blood, bones and nerve tissue, and as a vehicle for emotion that was also subservient to external forces. This study was heavily influenced by the emergence of a school of hard-heads: practitioners of singular introspection, measurers and quantifiers. Among these was Charles Darwin. Whilst pursuing his phylogenetic pilgrimage of the whole animal kingdom from salamander to superman, he also wrote The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals (1872). In this work he set out the indissoluble connection between the brain and the heart, and described the nexus forged between them by the vagus nerve.

A growing band of thinkers between then and now has looked upon humankind, as well as the human individual, as both a product and a reflection of environment. The development of quantitative means of assessing stress, anger, sorrow, personal inadequacy, depression and loneliness – all reflected in disturbed functional modalities – has helped to forge the history of emotions as a discipline. This talk will trace the development of these studies from the nineteenth century onwards. It will culminate in an appraisal of the Polyvagal Theory propounded by Stephen Porges which, it will be argued, offers much to enrich our understanding of emotion in both population groups and individuals. Art weaves its way through the whole.

Alex Cohen is a Clinical Professor in the School of Medicine at The University of Western Australia. His clinical and investigative career has been in the fields of general medicine and endocrinology. He has practised as a consultant physician and endocrinologist at Royal Perth Hospital and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Western Australia, and has held appointments at the University of Oxford and Harvard University, where he lectured and researched diabetes and pituitary disease. His past appointments include presidencies of the Australian Medical Association (WA), the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges of Australia. He is also an emeritus Chancellor of The University of Western Australia. His work and life ethic has been a pursuit of the Comedie Humaine in medicine and life, a passion for music and literature and a genuine liking and respect for all humanity.


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Last updated:
Tuesday, 18 September, 2018 12:23 PM