Professions have long been recognized to consist of 3 essential characteristics:
expert knowledge (as distinguished from a practical skill), self-regulation,
and a fiduciary responsibility to place the needs of the client ahead of the
self-interest of the practitioner.1 In recent
years there has been renewed recognition among medical leaders of the particular
importance of the third, or altruistic, characteristic in medical professionalism.2- 4 For instance, in 1994
the American Board of Internal Medicine defined the "core of professionalism"
as "constituting those attitudes and behaviors that serve to maintain patient
interest above physician self-interest."4
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