A comparison of the personality profiles of internal medicine residents, physician role models, and the general population

Acad Med. 1999 Dec;74(12):1327-33. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199912000-00017.


Purpose: To compare personality profiles of internal medicine residents with those of the general population and positive role models in medicine.

Method: A widely used personality inventory, NEO PI-R, which measures five major personality factors and 30 important personality facets, was administered in 1998 to 104 physicians in internal medicine residency and earlier to a nationwide sample of 188 physicians selected as positive role models in medicine.

Results: The internal medicine residents, compared with the general population, were more likely to be attentive, to have deeper intellectual curiosity, to have higher aspiration levels, to have more vivid imaginations, to be more receptive to their emotions, to be interested in mental stimulation, and to think carefully before acting. The residents, compared with role models in medicine, were less eager to face challenges, less able to control their impulses, less able to cope with adversity, less easygoing, and less relaxed, but were more likely to crave excitement.

Conclusion: Internal medicine residents and positive role models in medicine have some distinct personal qualities. Understanding the qualities of successful physicians can be helpful in career counseling of medical students and young physicians.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine*
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • United States