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Building Character

A well written article on New York Times titled “What if the Secret to Success Is Failure?” (long read) talks about success being more dependent on character than intelligence. The educators in the article settled on 24 character strenghts they deemed important in living a fulfilling, succesful and meaningful life.

“The list included some we think of as traditional noble traits, like bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom and integrity; others that veer into the emotional realm, like love, humor, zest and appreciation of beauty; and still others that are more concerned with day-to-day human interactions: social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations), kindness, self-regulation, gratitude. “

As I read over this list of traits and finished the article, I was left with the thought of why didn’t we measure character traits in the doctors we train? For a profession where communication skills, kindness and ethics is so important, we do little to measure and evaluate these aspects. Why do we care about GPA’s, MCAT scores, research publications but do nothing to assess the characters of the applicants going to medical school.

In all of medical school, the closest thing I have done is a Myers-Briffs personality type quiz (the whole INFJ stuff), and even that was optional. We don’t receive any lectures about character building or how to deal with failure or difficult situations.

I don’t know if this will change in the future or what needs to be done to change it, but it is an area I’ll continue to give some thought into. Especially since I’m quite interested and involved with medical school admissions, knowing what to look for in applicants that will indicate they will be excellent doctors in the future will be important.

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  1. G
    G September 20, 2011

    Wonder if the personality test has any predictive power over your specialty?

  2. Cerena
    Cerena September 22, 2011

    That’s actually been a theme of mine this entire year, whether I wanted it to be or not: that through my mistakes and failures, I have gained many of the traits you have mentioned I just didn’t have before.

    I think you’re definitely on the right track with your thinking. 🙂

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