• Vol. 34 No. 8, 486–491
  • 15 September 2005

Assessing Professionalism in Early Medical Education: Experience with Peer Evaluation and Self-evaluation in the Gross Anatomy Course



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Introduction: As today’s healthcare model moves toward more streamlined and corporate industrialism, it is our responsibility, as doctors, to ensure the integrity of medicine’s foundation in professionalism. The erosion of professional values not only creates a climate of animosity, but reverberates negatively to impact the development of students, who model their behaviour after those they most respect. This hazard has spurred an evaluation of medical school curricula, with a new emphasis on professionalism in the philosophy of medical education. Courses such as Gross Anatomy that, in the past, offered “pure content,” are now being used to teach and evaluate professionalism. The goal of this study was to determine if peer evaluation and self-evaluation used in conjunction and implemented early in the medical curriculum, can serve as useful tools to assess and provide feedback regarding professional behaviour in first-year medical students. Materials and Methods: From 1999 to 2003, students at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine evaluated themselves and their peers during the Gross and Developmental Anatomy Course. Numerical evaluations and written comments were statistically analysed within established categories of professionalism and correlated with academic performance, gender, and peer rating and self-rating. Results: The majority of written comments pertained to inter-professional respect, responsibility, and excellence. Students who gave higher peer evaluation and selfevaluation scores provided more positive comments, and students performing well in the course provided more positive comments about their peers and themselves than did those struggling academically. Students consistently rated their peers higher than themselves, and male students rated themselves higher than did female students. Conclusions: Implementing peer evaluation and self-evaluation early in the medical curriculum is a valuable exercise in teaching first-year medical students assessment skills when evaluating their behaviour, as well as the behaviour of their colleagues.

The professional role of physicians implies a commitment to upholding social order by providing strong leadership, good moral judgement, and the ethical practice of medicine.1-3 However, in the latter part of the 20th century, increasing pressure from political, legal, and market forces has effected significant change in healthcare delivery in nearly every industrialised country.4 Whereas economic drive has funded exponential scientific growth and advancement, these successes have, unfortunately, been accompanied by a compromise of philanthropic values and a growing negative sentiment among physicians.

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