A Foundation of Failure
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At a recent meeting of our medical school’s advisory college our Dean of Student Affairs asked 190 first-year students for their definition of professionalism. The majority of these young people, just months out of college, were perhaps unqualified to answer the question, yet enthusiasm overwhelmed inexperience, eager faces glowed with engagement, and willing hands shot up in response.
“It means always doing your best,” one student yelled, as the Dean scribbled the answer on a white board.
“Being respectful to everyone at all times,” contributed another. A murmur of approval was heard from the faculty.
“Putting patients’ needs first,” declared a third, and the congress roiled for the next fifteen minutes, bubbling with mostly redundant yet admirably idealist contributions.
For most physicians, “professionalism,” an admittedly nebulous term, represents not simply the opposite of “amateurism” but rather the very best practice of medicine. And the students, though overlooking...