Teaching Being an Ethical Doctor: The Physician Role Model and Humility
There is a need for a good role model for medical students and residents as they learn the skills and burdens of medical practice. I think that the most effective role model would be a physician mentor. But that physician mentor needs to have qualities beyond the teaching of diagnoses or medical and surgical techniques. In addition the role model must also be an example of the best in professionalism with the understanding of ethics but also the simultaneous practicing of ethical behavior that becomes obvious to all those he or she mentors. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned in previous posts, there is a “hidden curriculum” in the later years of medical education that, as being practiced by poor role models, is morally destructive. This must change.
One of the important qualities a physician model should demonstrate to the students and residents is that of personal humility. Humility, the ability to give up some of one's self-importance and assertiveness and show them that there is merit in the practice of medicine to listen to the advice and concerns of others. This means not only listening to and considering, even accepting, the advice and concerns of colleagues in one's own discipline but also the concerns, advice and point of view of those from other disciplines and from the patient and finally also from those students and residents who look up to the model. It is hard for some doctors to shy away from expressing their self-importance.
- Philip James Baley wrote: “Lowliness is the base of every virtue,
And he who goes the lowest builds the safest.”
Physicians, by themselves, are not always right in what they know, what they say and what they do. They need the feedback of others. Without behaving with humility, all the other virtues a physician might express
may give way and lead to misjudgments, medical error and absence of trust by colleagues and patients. In conclusion, I would tell students: “Physician, Be Humble”...Maurice