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The Humility Paradigm and the Introduction of the Professional Humility Concept

By Barret Michelec – December 21, 2020

#HumilityParadigmWith the Humility Paradigm, CAIPER is putting forth a research and educational initiative focused on promoting the values of Humility and similar attributes as they relate to interprofessionalism. The early stages of this initiative have been presented through work with CLOSLER, a forthcoming Podcast episode with the Academy for Professionalism in Health Care, and theoretical and empirical manuscripts that are in progress.

Although the Humility Paradigm primarily stems from my work in empathy and the foundations of cultivating team-ness, the core tenets of the initiative were already well grounded within Edson College of Nursing & Health Innovation – most prominently showcased by the SHOW Clinic and the leaders of that program, Liz Harrell, Kaitlyn Felix, and Tammy Krause as well as the forthcoming I-TEAM by Design™ program. 

Framing humility

Humility ParadigmThrough careful review of the existing literature on humility in fields like psychology, philosophy, and religion, we preliminarily frame humility as, an accurate and congruous sense of security in one’s vulnerabilities. This framing stems from not only the various conceptualizations (and operationalizations) of humility appearing in these disciplines, but also in an attempt to synthesize popular sub-domains of humility such as Intellectual Humility, Cultural Humility, Racial Humility, and Relational Humility. In this sense, humility is not episodic, but a consistent trait that is exercised throughout various social and environmental interactions. 

Humility in education

Humility ParadigmThis translates into health professions education, specifically interprofessional education, very easily – and not just on a micro, personal level (i.e. are you yourself humble?) but on a professional level. 

In fact, through the work of the Humility Paradigm as it relates to (inter)professionalism, professionalization, and professional identity formation, CAIPER scholars are introducing the term Professional Humility, a conceptual cousin to Cultural Humility and Intellectual Humility. 

Tervalon and Murray-García define Cultural Humility as:

“...a lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and critique, to redressing the power imbalances in the physician-patient dynamic, and to developing mutually beneficial and non-paternalistic partnerships with communities on behalf of individuals and defined populations.” 

Intellectual Humility, according to Davis and colleagues:

“...involves a.) having an accurate view of one’s intellectual strengths and limitations and b.) the ability to negotiate ideas in a fair and inoffensive manner.” 

Through the exploration of these terms, our initial conceptualization of Professional Humility is the consistent ability and willingness to: a.) evaluate, account for, and respond to the occupational status hierarchy within health professions, b.) understand the strengths and limitations of one’s own profession, and c.) accept and acknowledge the qualities, skills, knowledge, and aptitudes of other health professions and healthcare team members (including patients and caregivers) in decision-making and care delivery processes.

Professional humility

Humility ParadigmFrom our perspective, Professional Humility is a core construct of interprofessionalism and professional identity formation, and in turn, we must provide formal and informal opportunities for health professions students to strengthen this attribute. 

As we continue to develop the Professional Humility concept, we are also currently building interprofessional-based programming to enhance Professional Humility and related qualities among students and health professionals.


About the Author

Barret MichalecBarret Michalec, PhD, is the Director of ASU’s Center for Advancing Interprofessional Practice, Education & Research and Associate Professor at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. As Director, he promotes and enhances ongoing CAIPER initiatives and programs, cultivates productive collaborative partnerships, as well as identifies and expands interprofessional learning and practice opportunities for students, faculty, and community members. As a sociologist, Barret brings unique and novel perspectives on various aspects of IPE/IPCP, with a keen eye on evaluation and assessment. His research focuses on socialization and professionalization processes and mechanisms within health professions education, disparities in health and health professions, intergroup and interpersonal processes, and empathy.


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