Clinicians’ Power and Leadership


  • Edvin Schei,

  • Eric Cassell

  • Edvin Schei is associate professor in the Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, Norway, and Eric Cassell is emeritus professor of public health, Weill Medical College of Cornell University.


Despite medical leaders’ increasing acceptance of the idea that the whole person should be the focus of care, empirical studies show clinicians generally remain focused on narrower goals: disease categories, standardized treatment procedures, and objective measurements of health improvements. We assume doctors want to do a good job, consistent with their perception of the goals and norms of their profession, so they practice medicine based on the illusion that clinical medicine is “knowledge treating disease,” not people treating people. We believe that doctors’ seeming reduction of patients to clinical objects results from not seeing themselves as leaders for their patients or accepting their constructive power in clinical encounters.