Medical professionalism frameworks across non-Western cultures: A narrative overview

A. Al-Rumayyan, W. N.K.A. Van Mook, M. E. Magzoub, M. M. Al-Eraky, M. Ferwana, M. A. Khan, D. Dolmans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Medical professionalism is context-specific, but most literature on professionalism stems from Western countries. This study is about benchmarking of different frameworks on professionalism and interpreting the commonalities and discrepancies of understanding professionalism across different cultures. We need to study the cultural underpinning of medical professionalism to graduate future “global” practitioners who are culturally sensitive enough to recognize differences (and also similarities) of expectations of patients in various contexts. Aim: This study aims at describing culture specific elements of three identified non-Western frameworks of professionalism, as well as their commonalities and differences. Method: A narrative overview was carried out of studies that address professionalism in non-Western cultures in the period 2002–2014. Results: Out of 143 articles on medical professionalism, only four studies provided three structured professionalism frameworks in non-Western contexts. Medical professionalism attributes in non-Western cultures were influenced by cultural values. Out of the 24 identified attributes of professionalism, 3 attributes were shared by the three cultures. Twelve attributes were shared by at least two cultures, and the rest of the attributes were unique to each culture. Conclusions: The three frameworks provided culture-specific elements in a unique conceptual framework of medical professionalism according to the region they originated from. There is no single framework on professionalism that can be globally acknowledged. A culture-oriented concept of professionalism is necessary to understand what the profession is dedicated to and to incorporate the concept into the medical students’ and physicians’ professional identity formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S8-S14
JournalMedical Teacher
Publication statusPublished - Mar 16 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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