I staggered through the mounting stack of old journals on my desk over the Thanksgiving long weekend and was disheartened by Dr Ana Porzecanski’s reply [BCMJ 2011;53:114] to Dr Day’s editorial in the January/February issue of the BCMJ [2011;53:6-7].
Dr Porzecanski seems to contend that the issue of unprofessional behavior in physicians is unique to the junior ranks of the profession. She makes several generalizations about products of the modern medical school selection system, suggesting that “future doctors… have serious impairments of empathy, humility, and dedication to patients,” among other comments.
I think Dr Porzecanski has missed the point of Dr Day’s editorial. Unprofessional behavior is something that all physicians are capable of. In my brief career thus far, I have witnessed unprofessional behavior by medical students, fellow residents, and physicians of all manner of experience; by those who have been accepted to medical school on academic merit, on life experience, and on a combination of both.
I think I can speak for physicians young and old when I say that most of us consider ourselves genuine, sincere, caring individuals whose chief concern is patient care. I would assume that this viewpoint is common to young physicians of all eras, and has been from the time medical schools began accepting students at all.
Suggesting unprofessionalism is a disease of the young physician sounds to me like the same “they just don’t make them like they used to” ageist philosophy that I have, frustratingly, encountered all too often in my medical training. The system of medical education has changed and evolved over the years, but learning, teaching, and modeling professional standards of behavior remain important for all generations of care providers, not just the current one.
—Oliver Leslie, MD
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