Professionalism and empathy are crucial in clinical settings. An association would be expected between empathic attitudes and altruistic motivations for a medical education. However, data is scarce in first-year students, and a previous small-scale study did not fully confirm the hypothesis that person-oriented motives would have a strong relationship to empathy. The present study tested this association in a larger sample. 202 first-year medical students (M age = 19.0 yr., SD = 2.7; 67.3\% women) were assessed cross-sectionally, using the Vaglum and colleagues' indexes on motives for choosing medicine (security/status, person-orientation, and interest in the natural sciences) and the Jefferson Scale of Physician Empathy for students. There was a weak association between empathy and person-orientation, but the evidence regarding links between empathy and the three motivation scores was low overall. In this Portuguese sample there was not a clear-cut association between empathy and motivations for medical school.