What medical students know about professionalism

Frederic W. Hafferty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Three different sources of data are used to explore how medical students think about the physician as a professional. The data include exercises employed by the University of Minnesota-School of Medicine to foster professionalism among its medical students, such as the skills of peer review and self-reflection, a 20-hour course for first-year medical students, in which approximately two-thirds of the course focuses directly (e.g., topic-specific readings and class exercises) and indirectly (e.g., medical training and socialization) on the topic of professionalism, and a set of questions asked during admissions interviews which highlight issues of professionalism. Although the data are neither definitive nor generalizable, they do suggest that medical school applicants approach the admissions process well versed in academic and related (e.g., service activities) requirements, but without having given much thought to what it means to be a physician, particularly in terms of professional values. Once in medical school, students express great enthusiasm for "being service oriented" and "doing good" but are not necessarily receptive to the notion that they are obliged in these respects. Instead, students express a variety of utilitarian views on things like codes of ethics and medical oaths to support their stance on nonobligation (sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly). Furthermore, students do not draw distinctions among the values commonly associated with professionalism. In particular, they foresee numerous problems associated with integrating the values of altruism and dutifulness into their future practice of medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-397
Number of pages13
JournalMount Sinai Journal of Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002


  • Altruism
  • Medical School Objectives Project
  • Professional ethics
  • Professionalism
  • Socialization


Dive into the research topics of 'What medical students know about professionalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this