Medical professionalism across cultures: A challenge for medicine and medical education
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Background: The recognition of medical professionalism as a complex social construct makes context, geographical location and culture important considerations in any discussion of professional behaviour. Medical students, medical educators and practitioners are now much more on the move globally, exposing them to cultural and social attitudes, values and beliefs that may differ from their own traditional perceptions of professionalism. Aims and Methods: This paper uses the model of the intercultural development continuum and the concept of ‘‘cultural fit’’ to discuss what might transpire when a student, teacher or doctor is faced with a new cultural environment. Using our own experiences as medical educators working abroad and supported by evidence in the literature, we have developed four anecdotal scenarios to highlight some of the challenges that different cultural contexts bring to our current (Western) understanding of professionalism. Results and Conclusions: The scenarios highlight some of the potentially different regional and/or cultural perspectives and nuances of professional behaviours, attitudes or values that many of us either take for granted or find difficult, depending on our training and socio-cultural upbringing. With this paper, we hope to start a long overdue conversation about global professionalism amongst medical educators, identify potential areas for research and highlight a need for medical schools to embrace a ‘‘global’’ approach to how professionalism is embedded in their curricula.
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