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Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000280
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What Is a 21st-Century Doctor? Rethinking the Significance of the Medical Degree

ten Cate, Olle PhD

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Abstract

The undergraduate medical degree, leading to a license to practice, has traditionally been the defining professional milestone of the physician. Developments in health care and medical education and training, however, have changed the significance of the medical degree in the continuum of education toward clinical practice. The author discusses six questions that should lead us to rethink the current status and significance of the medical degree and, consequently, that of the physician. These questions include the quest for core knowledge and competence of the doctor, the place of the degree in the education continuum, the increasing length of training, the sharing of health care tasks with other professionals, and the nature of professional identity in a multitasking world. The author concludes by examining ways to redefine what it means to be a “medical doctor.”

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges

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