'The Good Doctor': the making and unmaking of the physician self in contemporary South Africa

Michelle Pentecost, Thomas Cousins

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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In this article we examine the figure of the doctor in animated debates around public sector medicine in contemporary South Africa. The loss of health professionals from the South African public system is a key contributor to the present healthcare crisis. South African medical schools have revised curricula to engage trainee doctors with a broader set of social concerns, but the disjunctures between training, health systems failures, and a high disease burden call into question whether junior doctors are adequately prepared or whether conditions of care extend beyond medical training. A concern with 'resilience' suggests a correct ethical relation to a putative obligation to provide care in a struggling system. By examining the ways in which trainee doctors are expected to 'cope' with the demands of medical practice, to adopt the correct moral posture in relation to the urgency of care, and to enact a desirable ethical relation to the broader social and political context of medical practice, we examine the picture of humanist concern that animates the subjectivities and techniques of the self called for by this training, and advocate for endurance as an alternative framework for understanding the political and ethical relations between doctors, patients and health systems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Humanities
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2019


  • Care
  • Endurance
  • Medical education
  • Resilience
  • South Africa


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