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What is Professionalism? :

May 1, 2020

Examples can go on and on. You no doubt have several of your own. Now define professionalism.

In the May issue of Pediatrics in Review (10.1542/pir.2018-0234), Ludwig tackles the daunting task of defining and characterizing professionalism.

The definition Ludwig offers brings recall of lyrics from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Sound of Music, when the nuns wondered about Maria. “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? . . . How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” Professionalism is about as easy to grasp.

In 1964, the great late United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined pornography with the famous words, “I know it when I see it.” The same could apply to professionalism.

We all encountered abusive residents and faculty while we were in training. I recall holding a retractor incorrectly during surgery and the surgery chief resident dragging a vein retractor over the back of my hand as a reward. Nearly everyone has been angrily berated. That is not professionalism.

Sexual harassment and bias have always existed, sometimes overtly. Again, not professionalism.

We see glaring examples in government: lying, misdirection, gerrymandering, fiscal mismanagement, name-calling, and seeking victory above all else, to touch just the surface. Not professionalism.

Research malfeasance, falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism are increasingly recognized. The implications can be lethal. Sadly, many submissions to this journal contain cut and paste sections—even from the internet—and are sent back for revision or rejected. In one submission, 70% was the work of others that were not cited! This seems to be an escalating problem. Not professionalism.

This journal has had senior authors whose papers were rejected castigate the editorial staff regarding the decision. Not professionalism.

Examples can go on and on. You no doubt have several of your own. Now define professionalism.

Ludwig did a good job of catching the cloud and pinning it down. Check it out.

My sincere appreciation and sympathy go to program directors who must evaluate trainees objectively.

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