Values of Physicians’ Different Roles: Can They be Combined? Book review of Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

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Saleh Fadel

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Abstract

What is the most important value to a doctor? In the CanMEDS Physician Competency Framework, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada outlines seven roles that all physicians need to have to be better doctors. As medical students, we learn about these roles and the importance of adopting all of them to become good doctors. However, each role prioritizes a certain set of values differently from the others. Each role comes with its own challenges and requires the dedication of a physician’s resources in a certain way. As the priorities are different and the resources are limited, the roles can come in conflict. In the book Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis, we follow the journey of a medical student, Martin, who adopts various roles at different stages of his life. As his roles change, so do his ideals and idols. We experience the internal tension created in Martin’s mind as he reflects on areas where the different physician roles come into conflict. This brings up the question: Can we truly adopt all of the ideal physician’s roles simultaneously?