The Medical Professionalism Questions That Need to Be Addressed

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Rob Minkes, MD, PhD, MS-LOD, and Robert Eisinger, PhD, both coaching faculty members at the Healthcare Experience Foundation (HXF), join us on our weekly Healthcare Experience Matters Podcast to address some of the lingering questions surrounding medical professionalism.

Vagueness of Medical “Professionalism”

Last month, the New York Times published an article that caught our attention here at HXF entitled, The Unbearable Vagueness of Medical “Professionalism.”

The article explores the evolving concept of professionalism in medical education and clinical practice, and the challenge of dealing with vague standards of professionalism, often resulting in disciplinary actions that disproportionately affect students of color.

These standards extend beyond traditional behavior to include appearance and social media activity. The response led to a viral movement (#MedBikini), prompting a retraction of a newspaper criticizing unprofessional social media content.

The history of professionalism in medicine reflects efforts to uphold ethical values amid changing healthcare landscapes.

However, concerns persist regarding the subjective nature of professionalism assessments and their impact on diversity within the medical field. With ongoing debates about dress codes and social media conduct, this article underscores the need for a nuanced understanding of professionalism that reflects the diverse identities and experiences of healthcare professionals and patients alike.

The full Times article can be found here:

The HXF Response

Dr. Minkes and Robert responded to the article, and ongoing debate regarding a lack of clarity on medical professionalism, as such:

Doctors and nurses have answered a calling to care — specifically, in healing the sick. They don’t think about whether their off-duty attire meets traditional definitions of appropriateness, even though some people think that is what defines or constitutes “professionalism.”

But larger questions remain. How do we train medical professionals to be leaders in their field — to commence difficult conversations about death, to manage C-suite demands and requests, to work as a team with others, or to assuage patients’ concerns in a way that fosters compassion and trust?

Hospital executives and medical staff leaders who invest in professionalism training will be rewarded with happier, healthier patients, and doctors and nurses who bring joy and love to their work.

The letter to the editor from the HXF Team can be found here: 

About Today’s Speakers

Dr. Minkes currently serves as Physician Coach with HXF. He is a board-certified general and pediatric surgeon who previously practiced as a pediatric surgeon for over twenty years in academic and private practice settings. He is also a professor and Chair of Specialty Medicine with Orlando College of Osteopathic Medicine (OCOM).

Robert Eisinger is Chief Academic and Administrative Officer with HXF.

A political scientist by training (B.A. Haverford College, M.A., Ph.D. University of Chicago), Robert began his leadership journey teaching and writing about public opinion, and the intersection of political institutions and behavior. He brings more than two decades of higher education and private sector experience to the HXF team.

For a related conversion, make sure to listen to What Cultural Humility Means in Practice for Healthcare Leaders with Tiffany C. Chaney, FACHE:

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Our podcast is dedicated to transforming the health care experience so that every person can receive and deliver the best care.

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Meet Rob Minkes, MD, PhD, MS-LOD

Dr. Robert (Rob) Minkes brings over twenty years of healthcare leadership experience. He is passionate about helping physicians, leaders, staff, teams, and organizations align their values with the amazing work performed each day. Dr. Minkes believes in coaching partnerships to empower others to foster new and healthy perspectives. Dr. Minkes most recently served as the System Medical Director for Adult Specialty and Surgical Services at Lee Health in Fort Myers, Florida, and supported leadership development, financial recovery, and alignment to the care continuum and value transformation. Dr. Minkes was responsible for clinical and patient experience initiatives, recruiting and onboarding physician and clinical providers, performance evaluation, and peer support programs.

Dr. Minkes is a board-certified general and pediatric surgeon who previously practiced as a pediatric surgeon for over twenty years in academic and private practice settings. Dr. Minkes joined Lee Health in 2016 as Medical Director of Pediatric Surgical Services and helped open Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Dr. Minkes previously opened Children’s Medical Center in Plano, Texas, and served as the Medical Director/Chief Clinical Officer and Chief of Pediatric Surgical Services.

Dr. Minkes grew up in Miami, Florida, and received his Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami. He attended Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans and earned a Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1991 and his medical degree in 1992. He completed his general and pediatric surgical training at Washington University in St. Louis. He previously served as Chief of Pediatric Surgery for Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and Professor of Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. Dr. Minkes received his Master of Science in Leadership and Organizational Development from the University of Texas at Dallas, earned certificates in Transformational Leadership and Executive and Professional Coaching, and is an International Coaching Federation credentialed coach

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