Although leaders and other commentators have called for the medical
profession's greater engagement in improving systems of care and population
health, neither medical education nor the practice environment has fostered
such engagement. Missing have been a clear definition of physicians' public
roles, reasonable limits to what can be expected, and familiarity with tasks
that are compatible with busy medical practices. We address these issues by
proposing a definition and a conceptual model of public roles that require
evidence of disease causation and are guided by the feasibility and efficacy
of physician involvement. We then frame a public agenda for individual physicians
and physician organizations that focuses on advocacy and community participation.
By doing so, we aim to stimulate dialogue about the appropriateness of such
roles and promote physician engagement with pressing health issues in the
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