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.

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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