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May 12, 2015

Enhancing Professionalism Through Management

Author Affiliations
  • 1Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA. 2015;313(18):1799-1800. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.4336

Over the past several decades, leaders of medicine have bemoaned a widespread decline in professionalism. There has been a growing sense of a loss or corruption of a physician’s sense of professional purpose that extends beyond any single country or practice area. The response has been an urge to reaffirm the importance of professionalism and to redouble efforts to imbue future physicians with professionalism.

Professionals are not merely businessmen and businesswomen. What distinguishes professionals is that they are dedicated to a primary goal—a moral ideal—that should guide their professional behaviors and practices. Physicians are professionals.1 All physicians know that moral ideal, even if they do not necessarily label it as “professionalism”: to promote the well-being of patients, which constitutes advancing their health and health care within the parameters of the patient’s life’s values and interests.1,2 At best, making money is a secondary objective that should not compromise a physician’s obligations to the well-being of patients.