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Making the professionalism curriculum for undergraduate medical education more relevant. Morihar SK et al. Medical Teacher 2013, 1-7, early online.
Reviewed by Mary Wroblewski


What was the study question? How do students and faculty define professionism? What are their thoughts on the best was to teach professionalism?

How was the study done? This was a descriptive study comparing student and faculty perceptions of the professionalism curriculum (both explicit and hidden) at the University of Hawaii. A partially open-ended resonse survey was distributed to all undergraduate medical students and select faculty. They used a "conventional content analysis" to identify and compare themes within the responses and examined the responses using frequency analysis.

What were the results? The survey response rate was 42% for students and 34% for faculty. Overall, the themes of the student and faculty responses were similar in frequency. The most common words used to define professionalism were honor and integrity, behavior reflective of the profession, respect and altruism. Of the most common teaching methods mentioned, role modeling by far was considered the most effective by both students and faculty.

What are the implications of these findings?
The results of this study were similar to previous studies on student perspectives of professionalism in undergraduate medical education. Both students and faculty perceived role-modeling to be the most effective method to demonstrate and teach professionalism to student doctors. Although both groups also metioned that didactics and problem-based methods of teaching were being employed, neither felt those were as effective. Role-modeling, unfortunately, is not standardized and is part of the "hidden curriculum" at each institution. Because now a number of institutional studies have continued to show the importance of role-modeling in forming professional behaviors in learners, medical schools need to address this component of undergraduate medical education, and faculty development is key. Although this study was institution-specific, the results can translate to all institutions.

Editor's note: The term "hidden curriculum" often has a slightly negative connotation. Recognizing that professionalism is taught by role-modelling (though the hidden curriculum), we should, perhaps, embrace this and think "Wow! I have a phenomenal opportunity to teach professionalism today!" Also, we could model discussions of professionalism by reflecting our thoughts to our trainees, such as "That was a really difficult conversation I just had." (SLB).

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