Intended for healthcare professionals


What's a good doctor and how do you make one?

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 28 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:711

Doctors should be good companions for people

  1. Carlos A Rizo, research fellow (,
  2. Alejandro R Jadad, director,
  3. Murray Enkin, consultant
  1. Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada M5G 2C4
  2. Timmins and District Hospital, Timmins, Ontario, Canada P4N 8R1
  3. National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Insurgentes Sur 3877, Mexico City, Mexico
  4. Centro Dermatológico, Federico Lleras Acosta Av, Bogota, Colombia
  5. Center for Bioethics, University of PA, 3401 Market Street, Suite 320, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA
  6. Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds LS2 9NS
  7. Khartoum Hospital, Sudan
  8. University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 1134 Penn Avenue, Wyomissing, Philadelphia, PA 19610, USA
  9. Oncology and Haematology Unit, Torbay Hospital, Torbay TQ2 7AA
  10. King's Fund, London W1G 0AN
  11. Winchelsea TN36 4EN
  12. 1448 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G14 9DW
  13. Western General Hospital, Edinburgh UK EH4 2XU
  14. Bristol

    EDITOR—Imagine waking tomorrow to find a magic lamp by your bed, and the genie tells you that there is only one wish left. You decide to devote it to making good doctors. What kind of people would these good doctors be?

    We ask this question often among ourselves—a doctor embarking on his career, an active researcher approaching his peak, and a retired clinician needing geriatric care. We sometimes ask other people too. Despite the disparate vantage points, the wish lists are amazingly similar. We all want doctors who will:

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    • Respect people, healthy or ill, regardless of who they are

    • Support patients and their loved ones when and where they are needed

    • Promote health as well as treat disease

    • Always ask courteous questions, let people talk, and listen to them carefully

    • Give unbiased advice, let people participate actively in all decisions related to their health and health care, assess each situation carefully, and help whatever the situation

    • Use evidence as a tool, not as a determinant of practice; humbly accept death as an important part of life; and help people make the best possible arrangements when death is close

    • Work cooperatively with other members of the healthcare team

    • Be proactive advocates for their patients, mentors for other health professionals, and ready to learn from others, regardless of their age, role, or status

    Finally, we want doctors to have a balanced life and to care for themselves and their families as well as for others. In sum, we want doctors to be happy and healthy, caring and competent, and good travel companions for people through the journey we call life.

    Unfortunately, we do not have a magic lamp, and there is no genie. We must use our own skills and endeavours to make the good doctors we want and need. It is …

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