Building a Community through Professionalism at the Larner College of Medicine

Debra Leonard, M.D., Ph.D.
UVM Larner College of Medicine Professor & Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Debra Leonard, M.D., Ph.D.

This is the first blog post in a series on professionalism at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine.

Written by UVM Larner College of Medicine Professor & Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Debra Leonard, M.D., Ph.D.

When our new Dean, Dr. Rick Page, arrived in October 2018, he pledged to listen and learn. But one thing needed to be done immediately: He wanted the Larner College of Medicine to develop a Professionalism Statement that would be featured in every offer and acceptance letter, ensuring everyone was aware of the expectations and aspirations for creating a welcoming and supportive environment in which to work and learn.

In medical training and practice today, we are required to demonstrate competency in six domains, one of which is Professionalism. But how do we define Professionalism and why is it important?

I was honored when Dean Page asked me to chair a Task Force with a small, but representative membership to draft the Professionalism Statement for the Larner College of Medicine. Our aim was to help define what Professionalism meant to our community, so we gathered people from diverse personal backgrounds from all of the different roles that make up the College of Medicine—staff, medical student, resident, fellow, graduate student, research faculty, and clinical faculty—to address this objective. After sending out a call to the entire College community for volunteers, we discussed the applicants and determined the members of the Task Force. While we were unable to include individuals who had worked on the professionalism tenets and standards that already existed for the College, we recognized the value of that work and used the concepts in the existing Professionalism documents, along with Professionalism Statements from Dean Page’s previous institutions, as a starting point for the Task Force discussions. During our three meetings and in our email exchanges, the discussions were vibrant, and everyone participated and contributed thoughtfully, creatively, and respectfully. I have led many committees over the course of my 27-year career, and no other group was as engaged and passionate as this group was about this important assignment. I want to personally thank the members of the Task Force, Jacqueline Drouin, Mead Ferris, Lyndelle LeBruin, Hans Michell, Mike Previs, Conner Soderquist, Margaret Tandoh, Nikkole Turgeon, Jim Ulager, Emily Whitaker, and Gordon White, for working together to draft our new Professionalism Statement.

Those who had volunteered for the Task Force but had not been selected to serve were among the first people we asked to provide feedback. And then, we shared the draft statement with the entire Larner College of Medicine community and asked for feedback. I believe this broad and inclusive process provided the entire Larner College of Medicine community with a sense of ownership of our Professionalism Statement, which was unveiled at a celebratory Professionalism event on May 1, 2019, and states:

“Our Larner College of Medicine community upholds the highest standards of professionalism as we follow our passion for lifelong learning and improvement. We demonstrate professionalism through integrity, accountability, compassion, altruism, and social responsibility. We honor the trust our society has placed in us as stewards of the art and science of medicine, relying on cultural humility, kindness, and respect to guide our daily interactions. We expect all members of our community to embrace these principles of professionalism as we strive to conduct and support patient care, research, and education that are second to none.”

I am grateful to Dean Page for the opportunity to work with him and the Task Force members on our Professionalism Statement. My hope is that our Professionalism Statement will be a beacon for the welcoming and affirming environment we want and expect, where we all can be passionate about our work and feel supported, respected, and encouraged by those we work with here at the Larner College of Medicine.


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