And yet, medical students may be disconnected from moral communities, disillusioned by moral traditions, or just have little time or direction to apprentice themselves to wise, virtuous professionals. Instead, they are left with contrived small-group discussions and online modules,, which they click through mindlessly (who can blame them) to learn the principles of professionalism without the practical wisdom and community formation necessary to make those tenets living, interesting, and active.
Just as “empathy” erodes into the vague moniker of “niceness,” professionalism risks dissolving into a series of platitudes that no medical student would likely deny but few know how to practically embody. The dilemma is one posed by Jonathan Imber, a sociologist of professionalism: “not whether the emperor has no clothes, but whether the clothes have no emperor.”
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org