Becoming a Better Person through Compassion: A Talk with Dr. Barry Kerzin

by | August 16, 2021 | Past Events | 0 comments

The Forbes Funds was joined by special guest Dr. Barry Kerzin renowned American physician, writer, public speaker, and Buddhist monk. In addition to holding several academic positions, he is the Founder and President of the Altruism in Medicine Insitute (AIMI) and the Founder and Chairman of the Human Values Institute (HVI) in Japan.

You can access a recording of the video here.

Empathy and Compassion, a primer

In this moving talk, Dr. Barry Kerzin discussed the importance of living with difference, enhancing self-compassion and compassion for others, and transforming empathy into compassion. According to Barry, this process of critical self-reflection and personal transformation is the key to finding inner peace and happiness. But first, one must understand the difference between empathy and compassion before embarking on this journey. 

According to Dr. Kerzin, an individual must distinguish between empathy and compassion. Empathy is when one places themselves in another person’s shoes or feeling what others are feeling. He described empathy as being enmeshed with another person. Compassion, on the other hand, is a concern for the suffering of others. 

Empathy is too emotional, and one cannot think clearly enough because they have taken up someone else’s suffering as their own and hence cannot see the big picture. However, being compassionate means being slightly removed from those intense emotions but at the same time more cognitively clear and effective. Adopting a compassionate mindset stops empathy fatigue which is especially prevalent in the nonprofit sector. 

As Barry Kerzin reminded everyone, people who work in the nonprofit sector are highly passionate people who want to serve their communities but are at risk of burning out in the service of others. 

Following the talk, there was a brief Q & A where Barry responded to several questions. He emphasized the importance of rest for the body and mind, eating well, and regular exercise in his responses. He noted that true humility is when the ego is not involved and that when making the shift from empathy to compassion, one must think in terms of long-term time scales such as in decades or lifetimes.

Concerning the nonprofit community, Barry speculated that perhaps the nonprofit community has yet to fully embrace a compassionate mindset because people are siloed off from one another and are insecure about themselves and their work. To change this mindset their needs to be a real commitment to change. 

Dr. Kerzin then performed a guided meditation called Tonglen, which translates to “giving and taking”, which starts and ends in the recording on 29:07 and 39:31, respectively.

GPNP Updates with Colleen Young

2021 GPNP Summit

Call for Presenters: What Innovative Ideas Do You Have to Share With the Nonprofit Industry?

Colleen reminded everyone of the opportunity to help design innovative and essential content that will inspire action in one or more of the three areas: HealConnect, and Co-create in the upcoming biennial GPNP Summit (October 13, 14, 15). The long-awaited Summit brings together over 1,000 leaders across sectors every two years, with ongoing learning and networking opportunities available between the conferences to maximize impact.

GPNP invites funders, nonprofits, students and academia, the business community, and government/public sector officials to serve as conference speakers, panelists, and presenters. Let your voice be heard at the biennial GPNP Summit. If you have a workshop, success story, a cautionary tale, innovation, panel presentation/discussion, or point of view to share, submit your idea to present at the hybrid GPNP Summit or forward over this opportunity with colleagues who may be interested.

To review a copy of the questions included in the Presentation Request for Proposals (RFP) and learn more about anticipated presentation topics based on the most pressing needs in the Greater Pittsburgh region’s nonprofit sector, download the 2021 GPNP Summit RFP for Speakers and Workshops document and be sure to submit your presentation idea here before Friday, 13 August.

Note: coaching and support are available to flesh out submissions and ideas, and you can get in touch with Colleen Young or Emily Francis with any questions.


Residents in all Pennsylvania counties now qualify for the CDC eviction moratorium, with Pennsylvania racing to acquire $1 billion worth of rental relief to those who have fallen behind on rent payments. The average household award is estimated to be $6,000.

However, if a county does not have qualifying transmission levels for 14 days in a row, residents do not qualify unless there is a rise to the CDC threshold.


An estimated half-million Pennsylvania residents will lose access to temporary aid starting on September 4th because PA unemployment compensation is only 26 weeks.

Direct Worker Care Support

Senators Casey and Wyden have introduced legislation to increase nursing staff, improve infection control, strengthen inspections, and raise salaries & benefits by increasing Medicaid match.

President Biden is seeking $400 billion to expand home and community-based care as an alternative to nursing homes. Nursing homes accounted for 30% of covid-19 casualty rates.


PA Redistricting and census updates

The Pennsylvania Reapportionment Commission will hold public hearings to address redistricting. For access to recent public meetings, please go to this link.

2020 Census Results

Census Slide

Despite losing a senate seat, the overall population grew in Pennsylvania, with a general trend pointing to growing urban centers and the population decline of rural areas. Bucking that trend was Pittsburgh, which actually lost a portion of its population since 2010.

Covid-19 and Vaccine & Mask Rules

The overall vaccination rates in Pennsylvania have increased to 59.1% of the total population with the breakdown according to race:

  • W:50.1%
  • AA:38.3%
  • AAPI: 26.8%
  • NA: 15.9%

Racial disparities remain between the different racial groups regarding vaccine distribution, and infections rates have climbed in areas with low vaccination rates.

The CDC has updated its guidelines to recommend masking in areas of high community transmission. Mask wearings protect the most vulnerable, including the immunocompromised and children. The CDC is recommending a third dose for the immunocompromised.

Colleen Youn noted that covid cases in Pennsylvania continue to climb with all the counties either red or orange, according to the Covid-19 Pennsylvania county data dashboard.

Black Equity Coalition

Job Opportunity for the Black Equity Coalition

Alissa announced a job opportunity with the Black Equity Coalition (BEC) as a community coordinator. For more information on how to apply. Apply here for the position to advance Black equity in Pennsylvania.

Alissa shared a link for a newsletter from the Pennsylvania Department of Health that shares the latest news about Covid-19, practical advice, and information regarding Covid-19.

The BEC was prominently featured nationally on the RAND Blog for equitable data analysis around Covid-19.

You can follow the Black Equity Coalition on social media here:

Community Wealth Impact

Community Wealth Slide.

Olivia Benson announced an information session for 16 August at 2 pm for individuals and organizations interested in learning more about investment as a tool for social good. Those who are interested can sign up with this link for the event.

2021 Annual Pittsburgh Leaders’ Well-Being Survey

The Forbes Funds and GPNP are currently surveying nonprofit leaders and social innovators in the Greater Pittsburgh Region and The Forbes Funds’ ecosystem regarding their well-being. Please consider participating by filling out the form here and sharing it with your colleagues. Your answers are confidential and will be used in the inaugural 2021 Annual Pittsburgh Leaders’ Well-Being Index.

Adult Well-Being Survey for Pittsburgh Leaders and Professionals - Promo Graphic

Future Events

Be sure to register for future Community Solutions Calls here. See you at the next Community Solutions Call or a number of our upcoming events here!


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