Medical Education Research

Amy Zelenski, PhD, is a medical education researcher and curriculum designer. She uses humanities-informed methods in her teaching and research, especially medical improv and storytelling. Humans are storytellers and we can use these methods more in medical communication to ensure that patients, families, and clinicians are aligned when it comes to treatment decisions.

Amy Zelenski, MD

Empathy as a Way to Improve Patient Care and Professional Fulfillment

Dr. Zelenski focuses on teaching physicians how to engage in empathic behaviors with their patients, learners and interprofessional colleagues. She also investigates how increased skill in empathic behavior can increase the quality of patient care and the professional fulfillment of healthcare professionals.

Amy Zelenski teaching

Active Projects

Using Improv to Teach Empathy: A Randomized Control Trial

This trial is testing the effect of a five-session medical improv intervention over Zoom on medical student empathy.

Dr. Zelenski collaborates with students Jacquie Kociubuk and Maya Amjadi, Department of Medicine biostatistician Fay Osman, MPH, and UW School of Medicine and Public Health Director of Health Professional Student Research Vera Tsenkova, PhD, on this research.

Best Case/Worst Case: A Multisite Randomized Clinical Trial of Scenario Planning for Patients with End-Stage Kidney Disease

This multi-site randomized controlled trial tests the effect of the Best Case/Worst Case communication tool on receipt of palliative care, intensity of treatment at the end of life, quality of life and the quality of communication for older patients with end-stage kidney disease.

Dr. Zelenski collaborates with The Patient Preferences Project on this research. 

Best Case/Worst Case ICU: A Randomized Clinical Trial of Scenario Planning for Older Adults with Serious Injury

This project tests an intervention—a communication tool plus clinician training in its use—designed to improve communication about prognosis and support clinicians and families of older adults with serious traumatic injury in the ICU.

Dr. Zelenski collaborates with The Patient Preferences Project on this research.

Funding Support

Dr. Zelenski's research is currently funded by the National Institute of Health/National Institute of Aging.

Closeup of patient and companions holding hands at a hospital bedside

Help Us Transform Medicine

You can help support research by making a gift to the Department of Medicine's General Internal Medicine Greatest Needs Fund.