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December 22/29, 2004

Professors Not Professing

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(24):2971-2972. doi:10.1001/jama.292.24.2971-a

To the Editor: The Editorial by Dr DeAngelis cogently summarized several contributors to the problem of professors not professing.1 I would like to add yet another to this predicament. It begins as a consequence—the widespread devaluing of clinical teaching she describes leads to the quasi-Darwinian removal of excellent clinical teachers, among them both experienced masters and promising junior folks. Once this species is at or near extinction, this consequence circles around to become cause, as the absence of such outstanding teaching in the faculty’s “intellectual DNA” means that subsequent generations of learners advance to become teachers without ever having known true excellence in clinical teaching. These generations cannot help but perpetuate the resulting mediocrity in teaching and also the continued devaluing of outstanding clinical teaching. This near extinction of clinical teaching excellence is of our own making, as it reflects the choices we have made and therefore the values we hold. It is not, however, inevitable and could be reversed if we were to purposefully change our values, our decisions, and our actions as faculties of higher learning.

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