In 1950, Harrison and colleagues proposed that the physician's ultimate and sufficient destiny should be to "build an enduring edifice of character." Recent work in philosophy underscores the importance of character ethics (virtue ethics) as a complement to ethical systems based on duty (deontology) or results (consequentialism).
Recent work in psychology suggests that virtues and character strengths can, to at least some extent, be analyzed and taught. Building character might be enhanced by promoting among students, residents, and faculty a four-step method of reflective practice that includes (1) the details of a situation, (2) the relevant virtues, (3) the relevant principles, values, and ethical frameworks, and (4) the range of acceptable courses of action. Exercises using such a model bring together the major goals of ethics education in U.S. medical schools-teaching the set of skills needed for resolving ethical dilemmas and promoting virtue and professionalism among physicians.
Building Character: A Model for Reflective Practice. Academic Medicine. 2009; 84(9):1283-1288.