The Physician as Health Advocate: Translating the Quest for Social Responsibility Into Medical Education and Practice


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Abstract

There is a growing demand for educating future physicians to be socially responsible. It is not clear, however, how social responsibility is understood and acted on in medical education and practice, particularly within the context of a growing desire to improve health care through an equitable and sustainable delivery system. The authors conduct a concept analysis, exploring the practical philosophical understanding of social responsibility and its implications for medical education and practice. The aim is to inform curricular development, professional practice, and further research on social responsibility. The particular ways in which social responsibility is interpreted can either enhance or establish limits on how it will appear across the continuum of medical education and practice. A physician's place in society is closely tied to a moral sense of responsibility related to the agreed-on professional characteristics of physicianhood in society, the capacity to carry out that role, and the circumstances under which such professionals are called to account for failing to act appropriately according to that role. The requirement for social responsibility is a moral commitment and duty developed over centuries within societies that advanced the notion of a “profession” and the attendant social contract with society. A curriculum focused on developing social responsibility in future physicians will require pedagogical approaches that are innovative, collaborative, participatory, and transformative.

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