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With each passing year, Big Med is following Big Law. Physicians, medical schools, and hospitals all proudly trumpet their standing in national rankings. Efforts to preserve and augment revenue streams produce a less patient-centered and more business-oriented approach to organizing the practice of medicine. Physicians are more and more commonly referred to as healthcare providers. And billboards hawking the services of injury attorneys are being crowded out by hospital ads touting high-margin service lines.
Many clients, patients, and legal and medical professionals regard the erosion of the professions as the equivalent a tidal wave—deeply regrettable but utterly unstoppable. But this is not so. It is possible to reverse the tide and restore a sense of what it really means to be a professional—to be devoted to the service of others and the ideals of a noble profession. Collaboration can supplant competition, and the best interests of clients and patients can regain their rightful primacy.
Who would gain from such a restoration of professional integrity? First, the professionals themselves, who could still go to work in the morning and lay their heads down at night knowing that they are serving something beyond their own narrow self-interest. Another group of beneficiaries would be clients and patients, who would be able to trust that the professionals serving them are truly following their hearts and doing what they believe to be right.
And third and most importantly, society itself would benefit from such an example. In the short-term, to strive to be anything other than number one is foolish. But in the long term, life need not be a zero-sum game. There are many opportunities for each of us to serve others and enjoy long and richly rewarding careers without always maximizing our incomes at other’s expense. As the story of Big Law indicates, competition can be good, but only when it truly brings out the best in us.