Character and virtue are as important as knowledge and skills in describing the ideal family physician. Sir Luke Fildes' The Doctor, a widely reproduced painting, provides a visual icon that helps focus attention on important aspects of the character of a "healing sort of person." By stressing rules and principles to the detriment of a good life as a biographical or narrative whole, modern teaching of medical ethics may fail to sufficiently address this aspect of humanism in medicine. Three virtues or character traits that seem necessary for the ideal family physician are humility, compassion, and forgiveness. Such evidence as now exists supports the idea that these physician attributes might be linked to superior health outcomes.