Medical students start their journey to be a doctor with an ethical oath.
But the classic Hippocratic Oath and other versions are missing doctors’ modern obligations for social justice.
You can use the Salud America! action pack, “Write a Medical School Oath to Fight for Social Justice,” to write your own medical school oath to reflect doctors’ ever-evolving responsibilities to address systemic racism, social justice, and health equity.
The action pack has materials and technical assistance to help you connect with your peers and school leaders, draft a new or updated medical oath, and build support to address health and social inequities.
“Writing a modern medical school oath can be a meaningful experience for students, and better reflect the evolving dynamics of the profession,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of the Salud America! program and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio. “This is how you can commit to prioritizing racial/ethnic equity and social justice as future doctors.”
Why Do We Need New/Updated Medical Oaths?
A medical oath is a series of promises that medical school students make upon beginning and/or graduating from medical school.
The promises students make in the oath typically relate to medical ethics and providing the best patient care possible. Most medical oaths are modeled after the Hippocratic Oath of 400 BC, the Declaration of Geneva of 1948, or others.
But these oaths may have promises that are vague, broad, and unattainable.
Or they may not address topics that are important to the students who will be reciting it, such as health disparities, health inequities, social justice, or racism as a public health issue.
“Because medical oaths are a public vow, students may feel the need to update an oath to better reflect their values, beliefs, and opinions,” Ramirez said.
How Can You Write a New/Updated Medical Oath?
Dr. Ramirez created this action pack to help medical students emphasize health equity and other social justice roles.
The action pack has these three steps:
- Connect with your medical school leaders. Use our model email and guide to engage medical school leaders, administrators, and faculty to start the conversation and get initial permission to write a new or updated medical oath.
- Create a working draft of a new medical oath. Use our guide to write a new medical oath or update an existing one to consider more deeply your professional ethics, values, and beliefs as physicians living and working in an ever-growing society.
- Formalize, showcase, and share your new medical oath. Use our materials to work with school leaders/administrators to formalize your oath, plan how to showcase the oath, and share your oath with the news media and on social media.
You can also get technical assistance from a Salud America! action pack coach, who can help customize materials and answer questions.
“No matter the reason for updating a medical oath or writing a new one, it can be a meaningful experience for students to reflect on the oath and provide more input on the promises they make as future healthcare professionals,” Ramirez said.
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