An Unexpected Lesson in Professionalism

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Instead of battling the crowds at the stores on "Black Friday" this year, my family traveled to Plymouth Massachusetts, the historic location that most Americans equate with Pilgrims and the birthplace of the holiday of Thanksgiving.1 Following the visit, I was surprised that my children didn't talk much about the cramped quarters on the Mayflower or the small size of Plymouth Rock, but their conversation focused on the Wampanoag Homesite. They were most affected by the signs posted along the trail that led to the Homesite, which emphasized avoidance of the use of disrespectful terms and behaviors in regards to the Native people of our country. My children then went on to educate their aunts and grandparents about the proper addressing of individuals from Native Nations.

As a kid growing up in New England, I had visited this historic location before, but this time, I appreciated something that I hadn’t in the past. I got an unexpected lesson in professionalism. According to the Common Program Requirements of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, “compassion, integrity, and respect for others”2are major parts of the competency of professionalism. Displaying "sensitivity and responsiveness to a diverse patient population"2 is also a component of professionalism. Pediatric residency programs are constantly looking for effective ways to teach cultural competence to residents and attending physicians. The signs posted at Plymouth certainly enhanced my cultural competence and made the difficult task of teaching it seem easy.

How about if we post signs in our clinics (and everywhere in daily living!) that contain snippets of information to squash ignorance about various cultures? There is a great deal of negative media and stereotypes already out there to counteract. Although it's doubtful that just the mere posting of signs would be the ideal teaching tool, it may be a great way to promote positive dialogue on the topic, just like it happened after my trip to Plymouth. My first blog entry for 2011 addressed the issue of political rhetoric and how violent speech may lead to violence in society. It's nice to end the year highlighting how positive speech can lead to positive effects.

Here's to a Happy New Year!