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April 13, 2011

Conceptualizing Physician Professionalism

JAMA. 2011;305(14):1411-1413. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.426

To the Editor: In the article describing a behavioral and systems view of professionalism, Ms Lesser and colleagues state, “Patients and consumer groups are unclear about the meaning of the word professionalism.”1 It is important to consider how and why ambiguity in the meaning of the term professionalism came about. Until the 1970s, professionalism in medicine was generally based on the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath. However, in the belief that free markets would control health care costs, the US Supreme Court in 3 important decisions fundamentally altered the meaning of professionalism.