The Compassion Interviews: Dr. James Doty

In addition to being a neurosurgeon, a Professor of Medicine at Stanford School of Medicine, an entrepreneur, and a philanthropist, Dr. James Doty is the founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University.

In this interview we discuss:

  • Why compassion is more important than money
  • What it is like to be in close contact with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • How transcending socially conditioned roles can save the world
  • What we can do today and everyday to cultivate peace, compassion, and happiness in our lives



A few weeks before the interview, I emailed Dr. Doty some standard questions on compassion that I ask all my interviewees. Being the efficient and generous person he is, he replied to my email with answers to all the questions I sent. I included these responses below. The questions in the video were new questions pertaining specifically to Dr. Doty and his life.

When and how did you discover compassion as a priority in your life?

Growing up in poverty with an alcoholic father and invalid mother I say the inside of my public and private institutions and, even as a child was fascinated by the paradox of individuals who had wealth and means ignore those who were suffering and to many times see those with nothing give everything to help another. In 4th grade I was so impressed by the kindness and compassion of a doctor who visited my class that I made a decision then that I wanted to help others.

Was your ability to be compassionate ever hindered by social conditioning of what it means to be a man?

I have always been sensitive to the pain of others…perhaps more so than most. While in my childhood and teens I may have not shown my feelings as openly, as an adult I have very much so.

What is your daily compassion practice or how do you maintain a compassionate mindset?

I go through a mantra which I developed a few years ago when I gave a lecture to students starting medical school (at my alma mater, Tulane Medical School) during the White Coat Ceremony…it’s a mnemonic using the alphabet letters C through L…compassion, dignity, equanimity, forgiveness, gratitude, humility, integrity, justice (social), kindness and love (See this website…a compassion bracelet with beads was made from it-

Where do you go for inspiration in compassion?

I think of a painful experience and recall how I felt and how I wished to be cared for and then relate how the other person experiencing similar pain feels exactly as I felt and wishes for their pain to be relieved.

What other men would you place on the list of compassionate men?

The Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu.


Thank you for watching.

May you find peace and joy. May you be free from suffering.