The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has developed an exercise to introduce professional ethics and behavior at the earliest stages of medical education. During orientation, each incoming class creates a class vision statement. After small group discussions on professional ethics, honesty, and responsibilities, representatives from each group collated student input and constructed a class vision statement reflective of student consensus on these issues. Each vision statement was recited as an oath during the white coat ceremony at the conclusion of the orientation program. Despite the fact that previous vision statements were unavailable to each incoming class, there were many commonalities among the statements created.Central elements of all vision statements include commitment to altruism, compassionate treatment of patients, and honesty and integrity in all professional interactions. Humility, the capacity to recognize and accept one's limitations in knowledge and skills, was also a key element in each statement. Three of four statements specifically recognized the teamwork and mutual respect that should be engendered among all members of the health care team. Each vision statement had prominent statements regarding the learning process during osteopathic medical school and acknowledged the importance of active and lifelong learning in the students' career paths.Student evaluation of this exercise has been positive, especially the recitation of the statement during the white coat ceremony. Results suggest that the development of a class vision statement represents a powerful mechanism for addressing the importance of professional attitudes, behaviors, and ethics at the earliest stages of medical education.
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