Medical Schools Offer Few Opportunities to Put Values and Ethics into Practice, Study Finds

Identifying ethical values in medical education

Researchers at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education conducted a study to determine the types of professional values and ethics medical schools impart to their students.

The study was part of the GoodWork Project, which, since 1995, has attempted to identify the conditions necessary for professionals to carry out work that is high in quality and socially responsible in a wide range of fields.

Key Findings

Based on interviews with medical school faculty and administrators, the researchers reported the following to RWJF:

  • Medical educators strive to emphasize to students the concept of professionalism, especially in the context of the patient-doctor relationship.

  • However, there are few institution-wide structures in place for students to put such concepts as values and ethics into practice.

  • Educators focus on the patient-doctor relationship and treating individual diseases, rather than the larger dimensions of illness and well-being.