The Role of Religious Culture in Medical Professionalism in a Muslim Arab Society

Ara Tekian
Harold G. Koenig
Haythum O. Tayeb
Lorelei Lingard
Mukhtiar Baig
Soort article
Original Research
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Purpose: Calls have been made to integrate concepts and practices derived from Muslim culture into medical professionalism in Muslim societies. Little is known about how these religious cultural concepts (RCCs) influence medical practice and education. This study explored the influence of RCCs on medical professionalism in Saudi Arabia.

Methods: This was a qualitative study that implemented a constructivist, grounded theory approach. Semi-structured interviews about RCCs and medical professionalism were conducted with 15 Saudi physicians at a single academic medical center. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants of different genders, generations, and specialties. Data collection and analysis were iterative. A theoretical framework was formulated.

Results: Key findings: (i) the role of RCCs in medical professionalism is perceived to be constantly evolving due to the evolution of societal interpretations of RCCs; (ii) participants described applying two standards to judge what is professional: a medical standard and a religious cultural standard. Participants shifted between these two standards variably and non-linearly. This variable shifting altered the values shaping medical professionalism, at times unpredictably.

Discussion: Academic Saudi physicians argued against assuming a stable traditional interpretation of RCCs, emphasized the evolving contribution of RCCs to medical professionalism, and indicated that the process of merging religious cultural and medical standards in medical practice is variable and may alter medical practice values. Therefore, these physicians perceived RCCs to be useful as supplements to but not as a backbone for medical professionalism. Careful consideration of the potential impact of RCCs on the values of medical professionalism is warranted.


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