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January 18, 1980

The Attending Physician: Privilege and Pitfalls

JAMA. 1980;243(3):235-236. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300290017012

THE GOALS of medical education today, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, are thwarted by a multitude of forces. Medical school enrollments are increasing. Academic and administrative demands on the faculty abound. Financial difficulties plague the institutions. The public is dissatisfied with and distrustful of the profession. House staff clamors for more tolerable working conditions. Within this milieu patients must be cared for and trainees instructed. Central to the successful provision of quality medical education and patient care stands the attending physician. His strengths, however, have become dissipated out of need for self-preservation in the pursuit of more tangible, more remunerative activities.

As attending physicians for students and house officers, through discussions with students from visiting medical schools, and from interviewing applicants for house staff training, we have identified several problems. Students and house officers are rarely counseled about their performance, whether good or bad. Often the student reaches