Bioethics Blogs

“Pimping”: Not About Sex– About Medical Education”

This cartoon below is certainly a good example of “pimping” which has been for years, really generations a technique of medical education. I recently wrote the following to a professional medical educator’s listserv:

The December 8 2015 issue of JAMA (Volume 314 No. 22) presents a Viewpoint article which I believe challenges us medical school teachers to find evidence of educational value in a practice carried out by medical school teachers and attendings  which is apparently not rarely applied to their students.  The practice is “pimping”  and is defined in the article by referring to an 1989 JAMA article by Brancati: “a series of difficult and often intentionally unanswerable questions posed to a medical student or house staff in quick succession.  The objective of pimping is to teach, motivate, and involve the learner in clinical rounds while maintaining a dominant hierarchy and cultivating humility by ridding the learner of egotism.”

So what we must decide is whether this “pimping” is an effective and benign form of Socratic teaching or in most cases really a form of medical student “mistreatment”
To learn more about “pimping” in medical education, read this outline of the practice in eTalk.




The cartoon also brings up another issue as to whether “pimping” medical students, interns and medical residents not only may intimidate and emotionally “harm” them but could this behavior eventually harm the patient.  A second year medical student writing in the Pulse website describes not only her own “pimping” but also witnessing her teacher “pimping” a clinic patient. 

However, a surgical resident who read the Pulse story wrote me the following:
I may be in the minority when I say, I’m “pro”-pimping/Socratic method.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.