Preparing Physicians for Professionalism in Practice

ABMS News (12/14/20)

Speakers at the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Conference 2020 emphasized the value of preparing physicians for professionalism through various means.  University of Kansas Prof. Betsy White Williams, PhD, MPH, highlighted findings that medical education organizations and specialty boards tend to conceptualize professionalism in global attributes.  Groups that may need to adjudicate whether a provider is professional often enumerate specific behaviors, which is likely useful in determining whether there is a cause for action to be enforced against the physician.  Williams implied that specialty boards may discuss these varying standards of professionalism and the overarching concepts to ready students for the more everyday tasks and challenges they will be expected to deal with.  Meanwhile, Michigan Medicine Prof. Brian C. George, MD, MAEd, said professionalism is best approached at the system level.  "Fully honoring our profession's social contract will require a coordinated approach to identify, measure and improve system-level educational outcomes," he said, characterizing them as "outcomes that can be attributed to one or more systems that produce and support physicians."  George said transcending individual competency to a coordinated strategy targeting system-level educational outcomes will allow the profession to more fully represent the highest professionalism ideals.  Finally, Bonnie Miller, MD, with the Kern National Network for Caring and Character in Medicine, said that "caring and character are the essence of professionalism."  She described caring as a deliberate practice and competence as a moral element of professionalism, noting that both systems and individuals should be aware of their caring and character.

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