The abilities to make good decisions in clinical and research environments, engage in sound interpersonal communications with others, and sensitivity to individual and cultural differences are essential elements of physician ethical and professional conduct. Ethical dilemmas and challenges arise in all medical disciplines and extend from the laboratory to the patient’s bed side. It is widely agreed upon in contemporary medical education that today’s physicians must be well-prepared not only in the biomedical sciences but also as capable communicators able to engage with patients from diverse backgrounds.
To prepare students for successful entry into and practice of osteopathic medicine, VCOM faculty and staff strive to individually engage and guide students in appropriate professional and ethical conduct. Formal coursework and early clinical experiences give students opportunities to observe doctor–patient interactions, role play communication skills, and discuss professional issues that impact ethical decision making. VCOM clubs and missions offer numerous opportunities for faculty–student personal and professional interaction, which forms the foundation for enculturation into the profession of osteopathic medicine.
The purpose of the first year Professionalism & Ethics curriculum is to provide students with a foundation in ethical reasoning and decision making. Students study and discuss landmark medical ethics cases, learn the history of osteopathic medicine and the guiding principles of the profession, hear expert speakers in areas such as palliative care, diversity, and law, and participate in small-group projects designed to foster group interaction and leadership skills. Differing philosophical schools of thought are taught to promote sound justification for choices in the context of one’s personal attitudes, opinions and values.