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The Differential

Can You Become a Five-Star Doctor?

Vincent Migliaccio Michaelson, Medical Student, 09:46AM Aug 12, 2017

O&Med School of Medicine

What makes the difference between a good doctor and an excellent doctor? Or better said: How can a medical student become a 5-star doctor? I asked around at my medical school to get an idea of what medical students at different stages think are the characteristics of a 5-star physician. Essentially, I asked them what makes a great doctor stand out among just good doctors.

For me personally, an excellent doctor is knowledgeable in their area and up-to-date in the latest research and applies this in a practical, ethical, professional way. Also, this doctor knows how to communicate complex technical topics in a simple user-friendly way. The excellent doctor is a leader and manages time very efficiently; for example, if an appointment is scheduled to start at 4 pm, it starts at 4 pm...

Here are some quotes from my peers about a "5-star doctor:"



  • "There is a great group of amazing and capable doctors out there, but what really makes a physician a 5-star doctor is the capacity to bond with the patient despite the circumstances." - Eunice Cuevas, fourth-year student 

  • "What makes the difference between a good doctor and an excellent doctor is to connect with the patient taking into account their vulnerabilities, remembering they are coming for help telling you their fears and vulnerabilities, and you are able to take care of that and treat the patient not the disease." - Armando Senra, fourth-year student

  • "The difference between a good doctor and an excellent doctor is someone who is kind, not judgmental, and respectful of whatever it was that brought the patient to the consult." - Katherine Candelario, second-year medical student

  • "An excellent doctor is someone that treats their patient integrally rather than intellectually. In order to help both the doctor and the patient." - Ricardo Burdier, fourth-year medical student


The quotes are similar in terms of traits, emotions, and morals. Notice how most of the characteristics are about the character of the doctor. Let's look at what the World Health Organization(WHO) considers a 5-star doctor. This concept was developed by Dr. Charles Boelen (1993):



  • No 1. Care Provider

  • No 2. Decision Maker

  • No 3. Communicator 

  • No 4. Commmunity Leader 

  • No 5. Leader


Notice how this approach to the excellent doctor is holistic and integrated? The 21st century is much more dynamic, with many more options for everything. Hence, the excellent doctor needs have these tools in order to solve problems and think critically. The excellent doctor may not have the answer to specific problems, but they know how to find the solution, and that is the key.

What is the difference between a good doctor and an excellent doctor? What characteristics does a doctor need to have in order to be a 5-star doctor? Leave your comments! 

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Medical school and residency can be a stressful, demanding time. These medical students share their insights and experiences, good and bad, in order to create a community of support and understanding for medical students everywhere.

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