Do no harm, doctors

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Do no harm, doctors

Korean medical doctors are a collection of brilliant minds. Their scholastic aptitude test scores prove that they belong in the top 0.1 percent of all test-takers, which hit 640,000 last year. Even applicants for medical schools in local provinces could easily be admitted to the Engineering College of the prestigious Seoul National University. Their strong competitiveness contributes to their unsurpassed popularity. However, we are wondering if this elite class really has the character and work ethic to match their remarkable status in our society.

Doctors are supposed to serve patients, not dominate them. Yet we cannot deny the grim reality that some doctors act as if they have the right to either kill or save a patient depending on their mood. Some doctors don’t pay the slightest attention to what patients say and refuse to explain the cause of illnesses and the treatment being given.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, however, selects freshmen primarily based on their personalities rather than their academic records. The school’s motto - “Ut Prosim” (That I May Serve) - demands that its students learn not only how to speak to patients but how to listen to what they say. Its famous nine-step interview focuses on the attitudes and qualifications doctors should possess in order to weed out applicants with unsuitable personalities. The school is proud of its philosophy, which prioritizes such critical values as active communication with patients and mutual trust with other doctors. The school’s recruitment method is also being adopted by Stanford University, the University of Cincinnati and UCLA.

What about us? The shameful incident that occurred at a famous private medical school in Seoul last month - in which several male students were arrested for sexually molesting a female colleague after recording it on video - tells it all.

Despite doctors’ obligation to protect human dignity, those doctors-in-waiting trampled on the very essence of decency, although we’re sure they had good academic records. If such a lop-sided meritocracy prevails in medical schools across the country, we can hardly expect that a dignified medical profession will take root here. Our country will only produce medical technicians with superficial knowledge.

We urge our medical schools to come up with a system to produce doctors with firm moral values by stressing the importance of students’ characters. Because doctors are professionals who deal with life, the ultimate human value.

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