A small gray rock, once a part of the Temple of Aesculapius, sits on the desk in the office, a reminder of the foundations of our profession. The physicians who trod on this stone would have been in awe of our technology and therapeutic reach, but they would have understood our values perfectly.

Compassion, harmlessness, service, covenant and reverence for life still are the values that infuse our work with its meaning. Yet the pressures of the marketplace often violate these fundamental values. Abiding principles as basic as the belief that every human life matters and everyone is worthy of our best care may run counter to the economic priorities imposed on our daily practice. Consequently, many physicians now suffer from compassion fatigue, a physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion caused in part by the widening divergence between professional and organizational values.

Meaning is the antecedent of commitment. Maintaining a lifelong...

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