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Official Journal of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM)

Editor-in-Chief: Graber, Mark L. / Plebani, Mario

Ed. by Argy, Nicolas / Epner, Paul L. / Lippi, Giuseppe / Singhal, Geeta / McDonald, Kathryn / Singh, Hardeep / Newman-Toker, David

Editorial Board: Basso , Daniela / Crock, Carmel / Croskerry, Pat / Dhaliwal, Gurpreet / Ely, John / Giannitsis, Evangelos / Katus, Hugo A. / Laposata, Michael / Lyratzopoulos, Yoryos / Maude, Jason / Sittig, Dean F. / Sonntag, Oswald / Zwaan, Laura

CiteScore 2018: 0.69

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.359
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.424

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Balancing confidence and humility in the diagnostic process

Jianni Wu / Eve LowensteinORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9934-860X
Published Online: 2019-06-29 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/dx-2019-0037


Humility in medicine can be difficult to achieve, yet arguably is one of the most important competencies to master. Overconfidence, on the contrary, is a natural tendency, having established its roots in evolution where quicker and more confident decisions likely conferred a selective advantage. Moreover, humility may evoke an image of weakness and vulnerability, antithetical to contemporary medicine, whose culture is dominated by overconfidence. Nevertheless, humility can be learned, and is important because overconfident behavior can be detrimental to our patients medically, psychosocially and legally, when it results in delayed or missed diagnoses. To achieve humility requires a great deal of metacognition, normalizing doubt and not being afraid to utilize tools that may feel beneath us. To practice humility requires strength and emotional resilience. In this paper we explore the definitions, roles and implications of humility in medicine, and we pose suggestions of how to accomplish this in the diagnostic process.

Keywords: humility; overconfidence


About the article

Corresponding author: Eve Lowenstein, MD, PhD, SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn, Kings County Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA; and Associate, South Nassau Dermatology PC, Oceanside, Long Beach, NY, USA

Received: 2019-05-12

Accepted: 2019-06-07

Published Online: 2019-06-29

Author contributions: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

Research funding: None declared.

Employment or leadership: None declared.

Honorarium: None declared.

Competing interests: The funding organization(s) played no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the report for publication.

Citation Information: Diagnosis, 20190037, ISSN (Online) 2194-802X, ISSN (Print) 2194-8011, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/dx-2019-0037.

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