Charlie Clark (one of the Fare Forward founders) has published a speech he gave recently at Dartmouth, and I empathize quite a bit with these lines about “values” in regards to medical education:

I don’t know about you, but my education, at Dartmouth and before, only gave me bits and pieces of what I needed to ask about meaning. It basically gave me this disorganized toolbox of what are called “values.” Values were these abstract ideas about what I was supposed to want or to accomplish—so for example, one value was making the world a better place. Another value was not wasting my talents. Another was making a decent living. Another value was friendship, romance, all that love stuff. And I guess the idea was, that if you pursued your values, and they were the right values, then you’d have a happy, meaningful life.

The rest of the talk is a great discussion about developing character and finding meaning by situating oneself in a narrative, which is great. But I wanted to focus in on the question of values because as I have taken on more teaching and leadership responsibilities in my work, I have noticed more and more that many hospitals and medical educational institutions are very strong on “values” but very weak on forming character There’s a whole ‘nother post to be written about the “hidden curriculum” (a novel, even!)and how medical school and residency teaches professionals to despise poor people. But at the very least I think we ought to be thinking about the danger of giving people a “disorganized toolbox” of values and hoping that they make their way into the brains of our colleagues or students.

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

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