Medical professionalism is the basis of medicine’s contract with society. It demands placing the interests of patients above those of the physician, setting and maintaining standards of competence and integrity, and providing expert advice to society on matters of health.
Medical professionalism prompts a thorough examination of the underlying causes of ill health in people and communities. The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national, and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities- the unfair and avoidable differences in health status seen within and between countries. For a more in depth look, visit the WHO-social determinants website. 
The medical profession is confronted by an explosion of technology, changing market forces, problems in health care delivery, bioterrorism, and globalization. As a result, physicians find it increasingly difficult to meet their responsibilities to patients and society. These challenges center on increasing disparities among the legitimate needs of patients, the available resources to meet those needs, the increasing dependence on market forces to transform health care systems, and the temptation for physicians to forsake traditional commitment to the primacy of patients’ interests.
Medical professionalism and human rights in the classroom
The PHR National Student Program promotes a rights-based culture in health professional training that helps students become more effective health professionals and stronger advocates for advancing the health of their patients, their local community, and the world. Enhancing the centrality of human rights and medical professionalism in medical education is critical to advance the cultural shift that puts patients at the center of healthcare. Curricula (link to Teaching module) can explicitly address important skills, such as quality improvement, patient safety, and teamwork to support professionalism in practice.