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Healthcare Reform, Medicine, Public Health

The 21st Century Physician

Physician treating a patient. Red-figure Attic...

Physician treating patient, Attic Aryballos, Ca 480-470 BCE; Image via Wikipedia

The economic and political realities that will define medicine’s practice environment in the United States during the coming decades are difficult to predict. But the competencies and qualities that will define the successful physician are much clearer.

21st century physicians must be habitual life-long learners to stay abreast of translational breakthroughs and technological innovations. They must understand the scientific method and appreciate the role of skeptical, critical reasoning in evaluating the medical claims made by allied industries.

Physicians must be familiar with the health systems landscape and prepared to adapt as that landscape is reshaped by ever-evolving healthcare policy. They must be capable of ethical reasoning and comfortable with making informed, often consequential, decisions.

Physicians must be prepared to incorporate public health strategies and emphasize preventive care in their practices, regardless of specialty, in recognition of cultural and socioeconomic determinates of health. They must be clear communicators with their peers and patients, and competent team leaders. Perhaps least quantifiable, clinical physicians must be able to convey compassion and empathy for, and sensitivity to, their patients’ unique needs.

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