The Student Committee on Professionalism and Ethics (SCoPE) through the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs has set a mission to define what professionalism in medicine means to students, faculty, and staff at McGovern Medical School.

SCoPE consists of members from each class from MS2s to MS4s who look for opportunities to engage the McGovern community to promote professionalism. The committee engages with students in each class at multiple events throughout the year and brings in speakers to encourage and educate the McGovern community.

SCoPE consists of members from each class from MS2s to MS4s who look for opportunities to engage the McGovern community to promote professionalism. The committee engages with students in each class at multiple events throughout the year and brings in speakers to encourage and educate the McGovern community.

In 2018, the committee invited Sylvia R. Cruess, MD, and Richard L. Cruess, MD, from McGill University as guest speakers, which sparked the process of defining professionalism at McGovern. Pioneers in the field of medical professionalism, the speakers gave the committee valuable feedback on how to bolster its program with the most important piece being that they first needed a definition.

“We were spending all this time talking about professionalism and how to encourage and promote positive culture shift, but we had not actually defined what we were working toward,” David Wideman, MS4, said.

The committee began research on how to define professionalism by looking at medical education literature and examples from other universities before deciding that the best approach would be to tailor a definition specifically to the McGovern community.

“We looked at a number of different models and definitions that different institutions had, but we decided that for us, we wanted to make sure this was inclusive of the whole McGovern community,” Kelsey Montgomery, MS4, said. “It’s not just students, and it’s not just the clinical faculty, but it is staff, residents, everybody.”

In order to construct their definition, SCoPE developed a survey, which they sent to the entire McGovern community, asking how each individual would define professionalism in their own words. The survey also allowed respondents to gauge how the university can improve on professionalism.

Following the survey, the group will hold focus groups to generate more feedback before constructing a rough draft of the definition to share with the community. The overall goal is to have a definition in place by August or September of 2019.

The concept of the definition is not to enact strict rules each person must follow, but to provide a target everyone can strive for as they progress throughout their careers.

“The whole idea is not, ‘this is how you have to behave,’” Montgomery said. “It’s more of aspirational goals for all of our community to strive for and give people a more concrete model to move toward.”

Wideman said he hopes that the definition will one day be tied into a curriculum that’s focused on the concept of professional identity.

“There is an educational process that’s focused around your identity as a person and all of the different parts that make up you,” he said.

“The goal would be that once you graduate, you’ve learned specific skills and the awareness required for self-reflection, and that doesn’t disappear when you leave. You continue to progress towards those values, and that helps the growth process. Nobody wakes up in 10 years being a perfect physician. It’s a process.”