When American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine’s Admissions Committee examines a candidate, the first thing they assess is his or her capability to become a successful physician. Although the qualities of good doctors aren’t easily quantifiable, they are evaluated by the candidate’s potential to demonstrate traits that are shared by some of the best physicians working today. Here are some of the attributes and skills needed to be a physician:


Physicians aren’t robots. They’re not just there to insensitively deliver prognoses or mechanically perform complex surgeries. They need to be compassionate. Patients respond better to a good listener who is empathetic to their needs, so focus on exercising good communication and compassion with your patients. Asking open ended questions about a patient’s overall well-being shows that you are willing and able to understand patients, their medical concerns, and their needs. With a compassionate approach, you can alleviate the concerns of your patients and give them the confidence to make the best decisions for their own health. 

At AUA, we instill compassion in our students with early hands-on training, which gives them the opportunity to spend time with patients and learn more about the best way to interact with them. By developing these skills early, our students are better prepared to meet the demands of practicing medicine and master the essentials of patient care.

Related: Why Are Some Patients So Impatient?

Strong Work Ethic in Medical School and Beyond

Having a strong work ethic means you dedicate 100% of yourself to your work every day, regardless of how tired you are or what is going on in your personal life. While this high standard will help you succeed in any field, it is essential for a good doctor. Every day brings a new challenge. Even if you don’t know what those challenges will be, you’ll have to be ready to face them. Preparation is time consuming, but you must put in the effort if you want to succeed.


Simply putting on a white coat won’t command respect from your patients; it must be earned. As with all encounters, first impressions are paramount. If a patient feels that you are inattentive, impatient, or unkempt they will feel unsatisfied and neglected and will most likely seek the care of another physician. Unlike other Caribbean medical schools, AUA has an Education Enhancement Department (ED) that fosters your professional skills and decorum.

Related: Student Support and AUA’s Education Enhancement Department

Medical Knowledge

Physicians need to have encyclopedic medical knowledge that can be recalled at a moment’s notice. They also have to stay on top of the latest medical news and trends, which could contradict something that was learned way back in medical school. In other words, as advancements are made in the field, you’ll have to learn new information that enhances or counters what you’ve already committed to memory. Though we can offer you some great tips right now on how to retain more and read faster, the EED is available for AUA students to help them develop methods to retain that knowledge and apply relevant information quickly.

Related: 3 Ways to Read Faster and Retain More


Because a successful physician is highly knowledgeable, he or she must reinforce that with confidence. Patients want to trust their physicians as caregivers, but the lack of self-assurance communicates uncertainty. A physician with strong, healthy confidence will be listened to and respected by patients and colleagues alike. Even if you feel unsure about something, don’t let your patient see it. Instead, consult other resources, specialists, case studies, etc. in order to provide your patient with the most informed treatment.

Related: 6 Ways to Look Good for Your Med School Interview


Humility and confidence work as a complementary pair. With your patients and colleagues, you must be a team player – approachable, compassionate and available. This means that despite time limitations and over-scheduling, your patient never feels rushed. Hear everything he or she has to say without preemptively voicing your diagnosis. You must also have the communication skills to admit when you’re unsure about something and especially willing to ask questions.  A physician is a lifelong learner and these situations should strengthen your resolve to continue striving towards becoming the perfect doctor.