The Student Committee on Professionalism and Ethics (SCoPE), through the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs, has worked to develop a school-wide definition on professionalism to serve as a common framework for teaching and practicing professionalism at all levels of medical education.

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 works 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.

The committee began research on how to define professionalism by looking at medical education literature and examples from other universities. From there, they developed a survey, which they sent to the entire McGovern community, asking how each individual would define professionalism in their own words.

“We received a total of 322 responses from students, residents, faculty, and staff,” said Shelley Burge, MS4. “We collected a broad range of responses with many expressing their enthusiasm about our initiative and the advancement of professionalism at McGovern.”

Using qualitative analysis, subcommittee members, consisting of McGovern Students Burge, Tasia Isbell, Colin Goodman, Kyle Black, and David Wideman, coded key points in each survey response to group them into broad themes of respect, integrity, compassion, collaboration, and self-improvement. The themes were then shared with the entire SCoPE committee and formed into a definition based upon the most prominent values identified by the community.

From there, Goodman drafted the original statement, which was edited through multiple iterations by the subcommittee and current and former SCoPE presidents Michelle Ghebranious and Kelsey Montgomery. The Student Senate as well as faculty members Dana McDowelle, MS, PhD; Thomas Cole, PhD; Rebecca Lunstroth, JD, MA provided valuable feedback, helping the group settle on a final definition.

“We hope the definition will serve as a guiding principle for our community and a framework to develop future professionalism initiatives undertaken by SCoPE and others,” the group said. “The shared values will provide us with a common language to discuss examples of exemplary and professional behavior in our community. We plan to incorporate these values in the professionalism curriculum led by the Center for Humanities and Ethics and in future initiatives developed by the Office of Professionalism.”

With a definition in place, the committee plans to continue working in order to strengthen the definition over time. SCoPE continues to welcome feedback from the McGovern community to ensure it represents the community as a whole. To send feedback, contact MS.professionalism@uth.tmc.edu.