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Edward R. McDevitt, MD

AAOS Now

Published 9/1/2019
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Edward R. McDevitt, MD

Unprofessional Behavior Cannot Be Tolerated

Editor’s note: The following letter is in response to the article “Encouraging Professionalism in the Workplace Through Education,” which was written by Kerri Fitzgerald and published in the December 2018 issue of AAOS Now.

I would like to applaud Kerri Fitzgerald for her excellent article on professionalism in medicine. I was dismayed to read Medscape’s top articles read by orthopaedists in 2018. They were:

  1. License Suspended for Doctor Who Danced, Rapped in Surgeries
  2. NYU Resident, Medical Student Die by Suicide 5 Days Apart
  3. New York Surgeon Gets 13 Years in Prison for Medicare Fraud
  4. Suspect Stem Cell Treatments Touted for Knee Arthritis
  5. A Surgeon So Bad It Was Criminal
  6. Embolization Procedure Reduces Osteoarthritis Knee Pain
  7. Informed Consent Ruling Could Burden
    Physicians, Experts Say
  8. J&J Wins Appeal to Overturn $151 Million Hip Implant Verdict
  9. Medicare Plans to Phase in Changes for Office-
    Visit Payments
  10. Three STDs Hit All-Time High in 2017, New CDC Data Show

That’s quite a list. I had a great high school teacher who warned us that three things get people in trouble: sex, money, and power. That teacher was spot on. He warned us that power was the most dangerous. Many topics on the most-read list fit one of the three dangers.

In my career, I have seen many colleagues put their medical licenses on the line by having inappropriate sexual words or deeds with patients, employees, or junior associates. The lure of money makes people do unprofessional things, to say it simply. In one instance, a surgeon suffered cardiac arrest when performing surgery, and while resuscitation was taking place, one of his colleagues approached the chairman of the department and asked to be given my friend’s position. Power corrupts.

I was happy to see in the AAOS Now article that Kevin J. Bozic, MD, MBA, is working at his medical university to discuss the importance of professional behavior at the earliest stage of medical school. However, no matter what people are taught, unprofessional behavior has to be addressed immediately and significantly. No one wants to fire a resident, fellow, or colleague. It is a very painful decision for all concerned; though painful as it may be, unprofessional behavior cannot be tolerated.

Edward R. McDevitt, MD
Annapolis Hand Center
Team Physician for Navy Basketball