J Med Ethics 36:121-125 doi:10.1136/jme.2009.032854
  • Teaching and learning ethics

Attributes of a good physician: what are the opinions of first-year medical students?

  1. Mine Sehiralti1,
  2. Aslihan Akpinar2,
  3. Nermin Ersoy1
  1. 1Department of History of Medicine and Medical Ethics in Kocaeli University, Faculty of Medicine, Kocaeli, Turkey
  2. 2Department of History of Medicine and Medical Ethics in Kocaeli University Health Sciences Institute, Kocaeli, Turkey
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mine Sehiralti, Department of History of Medicine and Medical Ethics, Kocaeli University Faculty of Medicine, Umuttepe Campus, 41380 Kocaeli, Turkey; msehir{at}
  • Received 27 August 2009
  • Revised 26 October 2009
  • Accepted 29 October 2009


Background Undergraduate medical education is beginning to concern itself with educating students about professional attributes as well as about clinical knowledge and skills. Defining these characteristics, and in particular seeking the help of the students themselves to define them, can be a useful starting point when considering how to incorporate aspects of professional behaviour into the medical curricula.

Method This study explores the views of first-year medical students at Kocaeli University Faculty of Medicine in the 2007–8 academic year. The students were asked the open-ended question: ‘What, in your opinion, are the attributes a good physician should have?’ Four topics were defined by researchers based on the undergraduate and graduate education projects. The attributes expressed by the students were evaluated by the researchers according to these topics and compared with the topics covered in the undergraduate and graduate education projects.

Results A total of 127 students responded, and between them suggested 756 attributes. The majority of these attributes (54.6%) were concerned with interpersonal relations and communication, whereas the category representing the fewest attributes (12.3%) was that involving scientific knowledge and medical practice. In general, students' perception corresponded to the concept of the ‘competent physician’ as described in the professionalism projects, but attributes reflecting their world-view were also expressed.

Conclusion Experience suggests that the active participation of students in determining which attributes are necessary for a good physician is a positive way of ensuring they embrace the importance of such qualities and attributes in themselves.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Kocaeli University Human Researches Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.