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The Physician's Duty

The New Physician March-April 2015

March is an exciting month for fourth-years. Not only do graduating medical students find out where they will begin their careers as physicians, but the Match also represents a bold step toward practicing (more) independently. It’s what many have been looking forward to for years.

But with independence come new responsibilities. This issue of The New Physician focuses on trends in public health, and, in doing so, highlights the many facets of physicians’ responsibility to patients, their families, and society as a whole.

This issue’s first feature, by Avery Hurt, highlights physicians’ role in helping their patients navigate traumatic personal periods of domestic abuse. Here, physicians are also stuck between the Hippocratic “do no harm” principle and complex ethical considerations, many of which are challenges outside of medicine entirely. Should physicians report suspected domestic violence even if the patient does not want it to be revealed? To what extent do physicians have a duty to be the patient’s first line of personal support in these cases?

The second feature provides a snapshot into the plight of emigrants from South and Central America. What is the physician’s role in balancing the welfare of patients and national politics, including immigration policy? How can physicians become more culturally aware in an increasingly diverse United States? These are the questions all physicians and soon-to-be physicians should be thinking about.

As physicians, we will sometimes follow single patients for years. It is our privilege that we become their friends and confidants. Yet every day, we will face ethical dilemmas that challenge these relationships and personal beliefs. With the ongoing health reform and changing demographics, health policy and the “system” increasingly play a central role in practice. It is with this mindset that readers should review this important issue of The New Physician.