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The story behind the Charter of Shared Values

Medical professionalism is at the heart of the practice of medicine. Yet the world in which physicians and medical learners practice is changing rapidly. Technology, patient empowerment, and more complex health systems have created a very different medical landscape.

“Right now is a critical juncture for the profession,” said Dr. Tim Holland, chair of the CMA committee on ethics. 

“The public’s trust is waning, and that is not just bad for physicians, it is bad for health care. Physicians are leaders in the health care system…being professional, being ethical, that is what is going to help restore the faith in the public.” 

This is why in 2017, the CMA committed to re-examining the three pillars of medical professionalism, starting with the first pillar, intra-professionalism, as expressed in the Charter of Shared Values.

The CMA has spent the past year examining intra-professionalism, as part of our commitment to better understand modern medical professionalism. Our ethics team spoke with hundreds of physicians, residents and medical students  both in person and on-line, about what medical professionalism means to them.

The Charter of Shared Values is the first pillar. The CMA is a leader in developing this Charter, believed to be the first of its kind in the world. 

It aims to identify the values and commitments physicians can make to each other, and to promote trust and respect within the profession

We want to lead a conversation about the culture of medicine, and develop an understanding of intra-professionalism so that colleagues  at whatever stage in their career  aim to treat each other with respect, integrity, reciprocity and civility.

RESPECT    INTEGRITY   RECIPROCITY   CIVILITY

This is how physicians’ expressed some of their most important shared values. By introducing this Charter, the CMA aims to help strengthen the medical profession, and unify physicians. 

Today’s physicians find themselves in a rapidly changing world. Issues like medical assistance in dying, marijuana legalization and genetic testing have sparked polarized debates. Technology and social media amplify these views, allowing opinions to be shared and scrutinized instantly. At times, these exchanges have led to discord, and incivility within the profession.

The goal of the Charter of Shared Values is to encourage a culture where difficult conversations and diverse opinions are welcomed. And this is just the first step.

In 2018, our work on medical professionalism will continue, as we tackle two remaining pillars: the Code of Ethics and the Accountability Framework. 

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.