Altruism Revisited

A Comparison of Medical, Law and Business Students' Altruistic Attitudes

Published in: Medical Education, v. 41, no. 4, Apr. 2007, p. 341-345

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2006

by Ian D. Coulter, Michael Wilkes, Claudia Der-Martirosian

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This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

OBJECTIVE: Although the concept of altruism in medicine has a long tradition in Western thought, little empirical research has been carried out recently in this area. This study compares the altruistic attitudes of medical, legal and business students. METHODS: The author used a cross-sectional survey to compare the altruistic attitudes of 3 types of contemporary professional students, those in medicine, law and business. RESULTS: The results suggest that medical students report more altruistic attitudes than legal students, but not than business students. Overall, female students reported stronger attitudes consistent with altruism compared with males; African-American and Hispanic students reported more altruistic attitudes compared with White students. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that the recent trend in recruiting more women and under-represented minority group members into medicine may have a positive impact on altruism in the profession, if the authors can assume that attitudes correlate with behaviours.

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