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Bad professional behavior dates back to medical school

Doctors with questionable professional lives often had the same kind of trouble in medical school, according to US researchers.//

Physicians disciplined by state medical boards were three times more likely to have had a history of unprofessional behavior while in medical school than those with no discipline records, says a study in New England Journal of Medicine.

The study is a first step towards identifying and incorporating subjective concepts such as personal behavior or professionalism into medical education, says Dr. Lynne Kirk, associate dean for graduate medical education at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and author of an accompanying editorial in the journal.

Maxine Papadakis, lead author on the study and the dean for student affairs at the University of California-San Francisco medical school, says, "We found that for physicians disciplined by licensing boards, the strongest association in medical school was unprofessional behavior," The study is the first to link doctor's professionalism in medical school to later bad outcomes when they practice; it gives professors criteria that can serve as early warning signs of trouble, Papadakis says.

The research found that doctors who had exhibited certain types of behavior in medical school were even more likely to be cited by a medical board: Those who behaved unprofessionally in school were 8.5 times more likely to be disciplined while those with a diminished capacity for self-improvement were 3.1 times more likely to be disciplined, according to the study.

The students were deemed irresponsible if they were late for rounds, didn't show up for the clinics they were assigned to, or didn't finish taking care of a patient.

Also, doctors who had been disciplined had lower scores on the Medical College Admission Test and poor grades in the first two years of medical school, although these associations were weaker, the study
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