Prominent Neurologist Named Director of Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion at UC San Diego

William Mobley, MD, PhD, to lead unique institute focused on empathy and compassion research and medical education

William Mobley, MD, PhD, currently serves as associate dean of Neurosciences Initiatives, a Distinguished Professor of Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and executive director of UC San Diego's Down Syndrome Center for Research and Treatment.

Following a national search, William Mobley, MD, PhD, has been appointed director of the Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, effective January 1, 2024.

Mobley, who served as interim director of the institute since its founding in 2019, brings decades of experience to this newly appointed role. He is a board-certified neurologist who cares for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders, and currently serves as associate dean of Neurosciences Initiatives and Distinguished Professor of Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and executive director of UC San Diego's Down Syndrome Center for Research and Treatment.

Through the many facets of his work, Dr. Mobley has demonstrated a deep commitment to research excellence and medical education. He is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on the neurobiology of Down syndrome. His research, which encompasses more than 30 years of studying the causes of dysfunction in neural circuitry in neurodegenerative disorders, has paved the way for the development of novel treatments.

Dr. Mobley has been published widely in renowned peer-reviewed journals and has served on the editorial board of several major professional publications, including the journal Neurobiology of Disease. He has served on multiple scientific advisory committees and boards for national organizations as well, including the National Association for Autism Research, the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, and the Bluefield Project.

“Under Dr. Mobley’s leadership as interim director, the Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion has established itself as a global leader in innovative research, education and partnerships that enhance our understanding of the neurobiology of compassion. In this new role, Dr. Mobley will draw on his depth of experience to advance the institute’s ability to improve our collective well-being.” said John M. Carethers, MD, vice chancellor for health sciences at UC San Diego.

As director, Dr. Mobley will further the innovation and vision of the Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion by providing intellectual and strategic direction for its centers and programmatic and administrative structure. He will partner with academic leaders at UC San Diego and beyond to guide empathy and compassion research and medical education initiatives in accordance with the values and mission of UC San Diego.

“The Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion’s unique structure and mission is a quintessential example of the cross-disciplinary research that happens at UC San Diego,” said Elizabeth H. Simmons, the university’s executive vice chancellor. “The institute provides an ideal proving ground for collaborative, interdisciplinary study into the neuroscience that allows humans to exercise compassion and provide empathy and Dr. Mobley is a fantastic leader for the continuation of this work.”

Dr. Mobley is passionate about the mission of the Sanford Institute and its vision for transforming medical education such that skill learning in biomedical disciplines is matched with the skills enabling physicians to connect their emotional resonance with patients to the perspective-taking that informs wise and compassionate decisions regarding diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.

“We need to support our colleagues in their pursuit of the very highest standards for caring for our patients while also helping them to care for themselves,” said Mobley. “We intend to measure the Sanford Institute’s success by defining the extent to which these goals are achieved.”  

The Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion is the first of its kind, representing an unprecedented blending of two parallel themes: employing rigorous science to understand the neurological basis for empathy and identify the mechanisms that transform compassion from biology to behavior, as well as developing novel ways to teach and sustain empathy and compassion in clinicians across the professional lifespan. The Institute consists of six centers that focus on specific domains within empathy and compassion, including social justice, technology, communications, mentorship, training, and research. Their data and discoveries promote wellness programs to prevent, intercept, and reverse the burnout epidemic afflicting the healthcare community.

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