Role Modeling & Professionalism

You serve as a role model for your learner and this is a very powerful teaching tool. In role modeling you impart your knowledge, skills, and values to medical students and your peers. Unfortunately, the negative behavior that you may display makes a much larger impression on your learners than the positive ones. Therefore, you must carefully analyze your performance and try to improve on the behavior you are modeling for your learners.

What Makes an Effective Role Model?

  • Clinical competence - knowledge, skills, communication, sound clinical reasoning, decision-making
  • Teaching skills - effective communication, feedback, opportunities to reflect of situations
  • Personal qualities - compassion, honesty, integrity, enthusiasm for practice and teaching, and a quest for excellence

Personal qualities encompass professionalism. As one of the ACGME core competences, professionalism is defined as a commitment to carrying out professional responsibilities, adherence to ethical principles, and sensitively to a diverse patient population.


Quick Reference (printable)


Articles / Books:

  1. Cruess, S. R, Cruess, R. L, Steinert, Y. (2008). Role modelling - making the most of a powerful teaching strategy. BMJ 336: 718-721 [Article Link]
  2. Francis, CK. Professionalism and the medical student. The Lancet, November 2004, 364(9446), pages 1647-1648 (doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2003.10.071). [Article Link]
  3. Lempp, H., Seale, C. (2004). The hidden curriculum in undergraduate medical education: qualitative study of medical students' perceptions of teaching. BMJ 329: 770-773 [Article Link]
  4. Papadakis MA, Teherani A, Banach MA, et al. (2005) Disciplinary action by medical boards and prior behavior in medical school. N Engl J Med; 353:2673-82.
  5. Papadakis MA, Arnold GK, Blank LL, Holmboe ES, Lipner RS. Performance during Internal Medicine Residency Training and Subsequent Disciplinary Action by State Licensing Boards. Ann Intern Med June 3, 2008 148:869-876
  6. Wright SM, Kern DE, Kolodner K, Howard D, Brancati FL. (1998). Attributes of excellent attending-physician role models. N Engl J Med; 339(27):1986-199. [UAB Link]