Although medicine has long valued and reinforced certain behaviors, collectively labeled "professionalism," among its members, it is not clear if or how these behaviors might be conveyed to physicians in training. Despite this, teachers are required to assess and at times to act on their perceptions of their charges' professionalism. Surgery residents at a large metropolitan hospital were tracked during a 50-month period. They were evaluated on objective criteria, such as clinical abilities and performance, and more subjective qualities, including ethical standards and interpersonal skills (professionalism). Analysis of the data indicated that residents who scored above the mean on professionalism also scored significantly higher than their classmates on every dimension of skills and knowledge performance evaluated. This convergence suggests that those qualities comprising professionalism are important elements in resident's training, and tend to produce better overall clinical performance. This finding, and previous research in this area, should encourage investigators to explore the relationship between professionalism and clinical competence.