ccare logoJames Doty, MD, is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford University and Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education as Stanford University School of Medicine.

While science has made great strides in treating pathologies of the human mind, far less research exists to date on positive qualities of the human mind including compassion, altruism and empathy. Yet these prosocial traits are innate to us and lie at the very centerpiece of our common humanity. Our capacity to feel compassion has ensured the survival and thriving of our species over millennia. For this reason, the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University School of Medicine was founded in 2008 with the explicit goal of promoting, supporting, and conducting rigorous scientific studies of compassion and altruistic behavior. To date, CCARE has collaborated with a number of prominent neuroscientists, behavioral scientists, geneticists and biomedical researchers to closely examine the physiological and psychological correlates of compassion and altruism.

Mission

CCARE investigates methods for cultivating compassion and promoting altruism within individuals and society through rigorous research, scientific collaborations, and academic conferences. In addition, CCARE provides a compassion cultivation program and teacher training as well as educational public events and programs.

Research

Drawing from several disciplines including neuroscience, psychology, economics and contemplative traditions, research and programs supported and organized by CCARE examine:

  • the neural correlates, biological bases and antecedents of compassion
  • the effects of compassion on brain and behavior
  • methods for cultivating compassion and promoting altruism within individuals and society-wide.

Education

CCARE’s education initiative includes:

  • a compassion training program
  • a teacher training program
  • public lectures, conferences, workshops and seminars
  • web-based education and outreach: blogs, videos, and wiki.

Vision

CCARE envisions a world in which, thanks to rigorous research studies on the benefits of compassion:

  • the practice of compassion is understood to be as important for health as physical exercise & healthful diet
  • empirically validated techniques for cultivating compassion are widely accessible
  • the practice of compassion is taught and applied in schools, hospitals, prisons, the military and other community settings.Dr. Dotycompleted his undergraduate education at the University of CA, Irvine and medical school at Tulane University. He trained in neurosurgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and completed fellowships in pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (CHOP) and in neuroelectrophysiology focused on the use of evoked potentials to assess the integrity of neurological function. His more recent research interests have focused on the development of technologies using focused beams of radiation in conjunction with robotics and image-guidance techniques to treat solid tumors and other pathologies in the brain and spinal cord. He spent 9 years on active duty service in the U.S. Army Medical Corp.

As Director of CCARE, Dr. Doty has collaborated on a number of research projects focused on compassion and altruism including the use of neuro-economic models to assess altruism, use of the CCARE developed compassion cultivation training in individuals and its effect, assessment of compassionate and altruistic judgment utilizing implanted brain electrodes and the use of optogenetic techniques to assess nurturing pathways in rodents. Presently, he is developing collaborative research projects to assess the effect of compassion training on immunologic and other physiologic determinates of health, the use of mentoring as a method of instilling compassion in students and the use of compassion training to decrease pain.

Dr. Doty is also an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist having given support to a number of charitable organizations including Children as the Peacemakers, Global Healing and Family & Children Services. These charities support a variety of programs throughout the world including those for HIV/AIDS support, blood banks, medical care in third world countries and peace initiatives. Additionally, he has endowed chairs at major universities including Stanford University and his alma mater, Tulane University. He is on the Board of Directors of a number of non-profit foundations including the University of Southern California Brain and Creativity Institute, the Friends of New Orleans (FONO) and the Dalai Lama Foundation of which he is Chairman. He is also on the International Advisory Board of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

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The Alphabet of the Heart and Compassion Beads

Dr Doty created a mnemonic called, "The Alphabet of the Heart", to be used as a meditation exercise. He then wrote about the exercise in his book, Into the Magic Shop. The Alphabet of the Heart includes Compassion, Dignity, Equanimity, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Humility, Integrity, Justice, Kindness and Love.

In a podcast series, Dr. Doty discusses each letter of the mnemonic with Dr James Kirby, Clinical Psychologist and Visiting Scholar at CCARE. Each episode features Dr Doty and Dr Kirby discussing  In each episode we provide personal reflections, research on the attribute, as well as practical tips to cultivate that specific attribute.

Listen to the podcast.

The Alphabet of the Heart inspired Compassion Beads, which were designed by the San Antonio peaceCENTER. The beading is done by 11-year-old Jen of JennyWren. The beads start with Compassion and end with Love: The bead string ends with a golden bead symbolizing the Golden Rule: "Treat Others as you wish to be treated yourself."