Individuals develop their professional values and identity as they progress through the hierarchical career stages of medicine. At the same time, the collective values of the profession evolve with changes in the wider society. This leads to recurring small but significant generation gaps in professional values. For the past half century, this gap has centered on the concept of altruism and quality of life. In order for professionalism to develop at the individual level as well as for the community of physicians, the generational differences must be bridged and negotiations for change must build on common ground. This requires a long-term developmental approach including teaching strategies which are career stage appropriate and adapt to the different learning styles of the younger generation.