What Does Professionalism Mean to the Physician?

[Letter]. Perm J 2013 Fall;17(4);94

Re: Kanter MH, Nguyen M, Klau MH, Spiegel NH, Ambrosini VL. What does professionalism mean to the physician? Perm J 2013;17(1):87-90. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/12-120

Dear Editor,

Thank you for publishing the commentary "What Does Professionalism Mean to the Physician?" in the Summer 2013 issue of The Permanente Journal. I agree that the core principles of professionalism include excellence, accountability, altruism, humanitarianism, respect for others, honor, and integrity. I would like to suggest that "duty" be considered as an additional core principle of professionalism. One could argue that duty is already incorporated into the existing core principles of professionalism. However, as a separate core principle, duty would weave a deontologic thread into the fabric of professionalism.

According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, deontology is "the theory or study of moral obligation."1 The root of the word, deon, is Greek, which means "duty," according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.2 By including a deontologic thread into the fabric of professionalism, it acknowledges that physicians are driven by a sense of duty to their patients, their organization, and their communities. In fact, when other core principles of professionalism have failed, it is often the principle of duty that the physician must depend upon in order to continue her or his work.

Once again, thank you for the excellent commentary.

Tim Ho, MD

Physician Co-Lead, Complete Care

Irvine Medical Office

Irvine, CA

1. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth edition. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc; 2000.
2. Zalta EN, editor. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford, CA: The Metaphysics Research Lab of Stanford University; 2012. 

Response to Dr Ho

Dear Dr Ho,

We are pleased that you found our article an important commentary on professionalism. Our main purpose was to have physicians incorporate the ideals of professionalism into their daily work. There are other principles that could be listed under professionalism. "Duty" as it applies to caring for our patients is certainly an important concept and could be considered as a separate principle. We believe that it is part of accountability and altruism. Ultimately, our goal was to continue the dialogue on this topic. You have added insights to this important work. Thank you for your contribution.

Michael H Kanter, MD

Miki Nguyen, MPH

Marc H Klau, MD; MBA

Nancy H Spiegel, MS

Virginia L Ambrosini, MD


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