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Below you will find an overview of all the funding opportunities provided by the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion. Please see program details for specific qualifications, deadlines, timeframes for each opportunity, as they all vary. 

Center for Compassionate Communication

Sanford Communication Faculty Fellows Program                     

Open call timeline: TBA

Sanford Communication Faculty Fellows

Faculty fellows Program (SCFF) is a faculty development program developed by The Center for Compassionate Communication (CCC) designed to train faculty to be communication leaders, support faculty in developing communication initiatives that are relevant to their Specialty that will be disseminated to faculty and trainees. The program includes foundational communication skills training, instruction in facilitation, reflection, and feedback. Curriculum content has a strong foundation in Arts and Humanities to support humanistic communication and will provide innovative techniques and skills for personal and professional development and dissemination.  It is hoped that SCFF graduates will bolster the facilitation of future CCC Programs.

Training includes but is not limited to skill development for interpersonal and team communication, Arts & Humanities in Medicine, workshop development, online learning, and potential collaboration with other faculty fellows.

Center for Empathy and Compassion Training in Medical Education

Medical Education Seed Grant Program

Open call timeline: Annually in Winter

Seed Grant Program: Medical Education Projects

Call for Proposals

The Center for Empathy and Compassion Training in Medical Education invites applications for medical education project proposals for implementation in the 2024-25 academic year.

The mission of the Center for Empathy and Compassion Training in Medical Education is to develop, evaluate, and disseminate educational programs to enhance empathy and compassion throughout medical training, particularly in the School of Medicine. The focus of this call is the development of evidence-based practices that help to incorporate empathy and compassion training into undergraduate and graduate medical education including those that aim to increase inclusive excellence in healthcare and health care education.

The intention of this seed grant funding is to implement novel medical education projects and evaluate their efficacy; those shown to be effective will be disseminated. The maximum amount of funding available for a single project supported under this call is $50,000 for one year, with a typical budget expected to be $15,000-$25,000.  All budget items must be justified. Proposals should speak to future sustainability of projects, including departmental resources or the School of Medicine.

First stage applications

The goal of the first stage is to determine whether your project idea is in line with our Center’s mission and appears to be promising for further development of a detailed project plan.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 1,000 words that will be scored by the review committee. The abstract should include:

  1. the project title
  2. a list of project team members, their proposed role on the project and why they are appropriate for this role
  3. the proposed educational program, including the target audience and timeframe, and expected outcomes
  4. the relevance of project outcomes to the goals of the Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion, and specifically, the Center for Empathy and Compassion Training in Medical Education
  5. proposed methodologies
    1. for implementing the program with an emphasis on practicality and feasibility (e.g., have you received approval in theory for adding your program to existing curriculum)
    2. for scientifically evaluating the outcome of the program (e.g. pre-/post-surveys, comparison condition, observational assessments)
  6. audience, groups, or systems targeted for training and intervention
  7. a diversity statement that highlights how this project would foster inclusive clinical learning and care
  8. a summary of required resources for the project with a budget estimation

Applicants will be notified of the outcome of the review, and those selected will participate in an iterative process, working together with the Center’s personnel, to develop the second stage application. The second stage application will involve a more thorough explanation of the project’s methods and a detailed budget and budget justification. The final version of the second stage application can be submitted at any time, but must be completed by May 2024 to be considered for implementation in the ‘24-‘25 academic year.  Second stage proposals will be reviewed and approved before funds are allocated. Invitation for development of second stage proposals does not guarantee eventual funding, but we hope to create fundable proposals via the iterative process.


Faculty, staff, and trainees are all eligible for funding.  Feasibility of the project given the responsibilities associated with the PI’s primary role(s) must be addressed in the first stage abstract. Interdisciplinary teams are encouraged.

Application deadlines and notices

  • First Stage Application due date: January 24th, 2024
  • Notice of Invitation for Second Stage Application: End of February 2024
  • Second stage proposal due date: Rolling, with absolute deadline of May 1st, 2024

Submission process

  • Please submit your first stage application at the submission portal located here. You may also access this form from our website at ucsd.eduunder the “Funding Opportunities” and “Research Application Portal” tabs.
  • Create an applicant account and complete the applicant profile.
  • Click “Get Started” to submit a new LOI application. Under the ‘Program’ menu, select “2024 Medical Education Seed Grant Program.”
  • Once the application is complete, please be sure to click ‘Submit.’


Contact Center Director, Lisa Eyler, PhD at

Center for Empathy and Social Justice in Human Health

None at this time. Please check back.

Center for Empathy and Technology

Request for Research Applications

Open call timeline: Annually in Fall

The mission of the Center for Empathy and Technology is to make compassion toward others the default practice in medicine, public health, and society at large.  Technology is tightly woven into the fabric of the world today; therefore, the work of the Center is focused on using technology in ways that promote – rather than undermine – empathy, compassion, and well-being. 

Call for Proposals

 The Center invites applications for one-time, non-renewable seed grant proposals.  The Center is interested in projects that use advanced technology to study empathy and compassion, as well as projects that investigate the impact of technology on individuals, social interactions, institutions, and society.  Examples of technological advances of interest include, but are not limited to, artificial intelligence, digital health, and precision medicine.  Projects may be proof-of-concept, pilot, or early stage and may be de novo or add-ons to existing studies.

Priority Topics: Vary per call

Submission Process

First Stage Application – Letter of Intent

Please send a 500-word abstract that will be scored by the review committee.  The abstract should include (a) the project title; (b) list of research team members with NIH biosketch or equivalent for each investigator; (c) the research question; (d) its relevance to empathy, compassion, and technology; and (e) proposed methodologies.

To submit your proposal, complete the following steps:

  1. Visit the submission portal located here. You may also access this form from our website at under the “Funding Opportunities” and “Research Application Portal” tabs.
  2. Create an applicant account and complete the applicant profile.
  3. Click “Get Started” to submit a new LOI application. Under the ‘Program’ menu, select “Center for Empathy and Technology"
  4. Once the application is complete, please be sure to click ‘Submit.’

Applicants will be notified as to whether or not a second stage application is requested.  Specific instructions will be sent to investigators who are invited to submit a second stage application.

Center for Mentorship in Medicine

None at this time. Please check back.

Center for Research on Empathy and Compassion

Request for Research Applications addressing either Basic or Applied Research

Open call timeline: Annually in Spring

The Request for Applications addressing either Basic or Applied Research under the Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion call is an annual call that opens up late spring.

The Center for Research on Empathy and Compassion, operating within the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion, invites applications for one-time, non-renewable seed grant proposals for 2021. The Institute exists to enhance the well-being of healthcare professionals, faculty, and students through elucidation of the neurobiological bases of empathy and compassion and through the application of research advances in novel educational and training initiatives.

The Center for Research on Empathy and Compassion pursues both basic and applied research.  The basic science agenda has a focus on the fundamental features of neural function and behavior in the context of paradigms that engage empathy and compassion.  The applied research agenda focuses on outcomes of interventions carried out in ecologically valid contexts that foster empathy, compassion, alleviation of anxiety and burnout, and, more generally, pro-social behavior.  Projects that directly link training to changes in brain function are of special interest. In turn, we are eager to exploit basic science insights to enhance training programs.

Both subjective and objective measures of outcome are valid. Examples of objective measures include functional and structural MRI, EEG and MEG, and local field potentials and single neuron recordings.  In addition, approaches to the assessment of behavior, social interaction, contextual awareness, and emotional response are encouraged. These include, but are not limited to, measures of facial expression and evaluation of discourse, gesture, and distributed cognition.  The Center encourages the incorporation of measures of physiological function (e.g., heart rate, sympathetic/parasympathetic function, blood, and saliva biomarkers) when projects are designed to help bridge the gap between measures of behavior and neural function.

The Center especially encourages projects that are relevant to patient interactions with health care professionals and their relationship to professional burnout, depersonalization, and emotional fatigue.  This includes systems-level work guided by principles of empathy and compassion to improve physicians’ work experience and well-being and multidimensional innovations that span individual health care professionals, patients, care teams, and the records and equipment with which they interact.

The Center is interested in cross-disciplinary projects that effectively integrate measures of brain, body, and behavior/social interaction in applied settings that engage and foster empathy and compassion.  Projects may be a proof-of-concept, pilot, or early stage and may be add-ons to existing studies. The level of funding for projects supported under this RFA is expected to be $50,000 to $100,000 for one year, with possible renewal for one additional year. 

Pre & Post doc Fellowship Program

Open call timeline: Fall

The Institute offers frequent opportunities for involvement, including a Journal Club, Compassion Interest Group, Speaker Series, along with opportunities for presentation and other professional development. We encourage appointed Sanford Fellows and their mentors to participate in Institute activities to enhance learning and to interact with the broader community engaged in research related to empathy and compassion. Fellows will present their findings at Annual Fellows Meetings.

Award Details

Support will be provided for up to two years for Fellows. Renewal for a second year requires submission and approval of a progress report covering the first year. The full cost of stipend/salary will be covered for all Fellows. Tuition and fees will be covered for pre-doctoral Fellows; up to $5,000 will be allowed to support their supplies/reagents. For postdoctoral Scholars up to $15,000 will be provided for supplies/reagents.


Any full-time UC San Diego medical student, graduate student, or postdoctoral scholar interested in conducting research related to empathy and compassion is encouraged to apply. We welcome applications for basic and applied research projects. Applicants are required to identify a UCSD faculty mentor to develop the research project collaboratively. The program welcomes as mentor all members of the UCSD faculty, including Adjunct members whose primary affiliation is through the Salk Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, or the Sanford/Burnham/Prebys Institute.

The application process begins with a letter of intent (LOI) (one and one-half page maximum) listing the project title, names of the applicant and mentor(s), the hypothesis and overall plan of study, expected outcomes, and significance. The applicant and mentor will jointly submit the LOI. An Institute review committee will select LOIs most likely to succeed as full proposals. Those selected will submit a full application (6-page maximum) that follows the Institute’s template.

Collaborative Research Program

Open call timeline: Bi annually: Winter and Fall


The goal of this program is to support collaborative research projects aligned with the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion (TDSIEC) efforts to enhance the discoveries of neurobiological bases of empathy and compassion. It encourages high-quality science and multidisciplinary collaborative and integrative approaches to important problems. The collaborations should be focused on a common problem of fundamental interest to the TDSIEC, the requested resources should be necessary to advance the problem being addressed, and the most appropriate collaborators, regardless of location, should be involved. This mechanism is not intended simply to support core facilities. It also is not designed to support groups of investigators at the same institution who would normally interact and collaborate in the absence of the collaborative grant. The requested resources must facilitate a synthesis of information that would not take place if each grant was independently supplemented.

Specifically, the program seeks to broaden and strengthen research collaborations between researchers and community partners both within and outside UC San Diego to accelerate and enhance science by promoting partnerships between intramural investigators (e.g., those conducting research within UC San Diego) and extramural investigators or community partners (e.g., those conducting research in labs outside of UC San Diego or those participating in research with UC San Diego), and by providing support for extramural investigators to take advantage of the unique research opportunities available at the TDSIEC by conducting research projects in collaboration with intramural investigators.

In order to be eligible for this program, the application must include at least one intramural researcher as Principal Investigator and have at least one external researcher or community partner identified as the collaborator.


Intramural Principal Investigators are identified as researchers within UC San Diego

External Collaborators are identified as at least one of the following:

  • External researcher conducting research in labs outside of UC San Diego
  • Community Partner participating in research with UC San Diego

An External Researcher from an outside institution must make up ≥30% of proposed budget effort to research activities

A Community Partner must be designated as having equal authority. Designated partner of equal authority acknowledges and commits to reviewing and approving research activities, plans and budget.

Number of Applications Allowed

Applicants may submit more than one application, provided each application is scientifically different and/or applicant does not have any outstanding reporting with other held TDSIEC grants.

Additional Information

Applications must be submitted through electronic submission via the TDSIEC Empathy and Compassion Applicant portal.

Sanford Scholars Program

Sanford Scholars Program 

Open call timeline: Annually in Winter

The T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion will fund a total of 10-12 first-year School of Medicine, Pharmacy, or graduate Master of Public Health students to initiate extended summer research projects through its Sanford Scholars Award Program. Students interested in conducting research projects related to empathy and compassion are encouraged to apply and are required to identify a UCSD faculty mentor to collaboratively develop the research project. In addition to initiating a research project, Sanford Scholars are required to participate in a summer program that will enhance the overall project efficacy, further develop empathy and compassion skills, and create a cohesive cadre of student leaders in empathy and compassion.

Required Program Activities

  • Research Project – Identify a UCSD faculty mentor and develop and implement a research project related to empathy and compassion. A list of interested faculty will be provided to use as an initial guide, though you may also identify a mentor not listed.
  • Summer Mindfulness/Compassion Training – Participate in a workshop series related to mindfulness, compassion, and self-compassion cultivation.
  • Summer Didactic Lectures – Participate in a series of lectures on topics related to empathy and compassion, closely correlated with each of our Sanford Institute Centers, to provide Scholars with a robust and well-rounded foundation of research and learning in empathy and compassion.
  • Summer Ethics Workshop – Attend the 4-5 hour scientific ethics workshop for summer medical students to ensure research projects are ethically sound.

Application and Project Timeline

  • (Optional) Attend the Sanford Scholars program information session via Zoom to learn more about the application process, program requirements, and ask questions.
  • UCSD faculty mentor identified and an initial interest form is completed.
  • Attend a required virtual pre-review session with your mentor to briefly present your initial research project ideas and receive feedback from Institute staff to help hone your application before final submission.
  • Applications are due via an online portal and will include a research project proposal, budget proposal and justification, and a mentor endorsement form and CV/Biosketch.
  • Sanford Scholar awards announced and projects to commence immediately with IRB submission.
  • Final research project presentation. Interim progress reports will be due periodically before late Spring.


All projects will be funded up to a total of $8,000. Of this total award, $6,000 will be provided directly to the student as a stipend, and up to $2,000 will be provided to the mentor to support the research project, including supplies and materials.

Questions? Contact Jenna Tutjer (