This is the seventh article in an education series, discussing some of the 'hot topics' in teaching and learning in medicine. Historically, 'professionalism' was defined by the social structures of medicine, but has moved on to represent the expected behaviours and attributes of practitioners. Well publicised cases of professional misconduct, the rise of medical ethics as a discipline, and the move to a more patient-centred approach have driven the profile of professionalism into mainstream medical education. While there are many definitions of medical professionalism, there is a growing degree of consensus around what it encompasses; the way we manage tasks, our interactions with others, and looking after ourselves. The literature indicates that professionalism can be taught, learnt and applied; that attributes and behaviours can be identified; and that assessment is best approached using a range of methods over time. For learners, one of the critical factors in developing professionalism is the modelling by senior members of the profession as students move from peripheral observers to legitimate participants. Medical programmes in New Zealand are engaging with this literature in developing current curricula.