What Makes a Good Doctor? The Balancing Act Between IQ and EQ


Many would argue that medicine is a prestigious career. A doctor is expected to treat, improve and save patient lives. But does this cookie-cutter definition really describe a “good” doctor? 

There is no doubt that the medical profession is not for the faint-hearted. So, what sets apart this profession, and what differentiates the ‘good’ doctor from the “bad”? In this essay, I am hoping to explore this rather complex, intriguing question and analyze whether this perceived notion of a doctor, in reality, is ‘good’.

Medicine is an intellectually demanding career. After years of hard work at medical school, doctors are expected to apply their skills to patients with conditions of varying complexities. A doctor at times may not have a clear and immediate solution as exemplified by Covid-19. 

The key here is the problem-solving aptitude, ability to cope with difficult & demanding situations by being resilient and empathetic to patient wellbeing. The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) that measures academic or cognitive intelligence may be too narrow to cover all the skills required, individuals with a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) may achieve higher success. EQ refers to the person’s ability to perceive, control, evaluate, and express emotions.1 Evidence is emerging that EQ is as important for patient outcomes as it is for business and relationship success.2 

Therefore, the perfect concoction of qualities of a good doctor is formulated by IQ and EQ – the Intelligence and Emotional Quotients. 

So how does EQ contribute? 

Emotional intelligence can best be described as the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.3 

In fact, in the UK much of this is evaluated as early as the application to medical school. Physicians work in both emotionally demanding and highly complex environments. A Loyola Medicine study4 demonstrates that an educational curriculum for physicians in training improves their emotional intelligence, which may help protect against burnout.

Key competencies of a good doctor: 

Communication and Social Skills 

Doctors need to first communicate to understand their patient’s issues and then effectively explain the diagnosis, using clear, simple language emptied of medical jargon. Physicians with high EQ have the ability to recognize, relate and influence a patient’s emotions to make them feel empowered and hopeful. 

Relationships and Caring 

It’s important to not view patients as a list of medical problems but as opportunities to build confidence and trust between patient and doctor. When patients are cared for and listened to, they are more likely to comply with medical recommendations and return for follow-up visits, leading to strong relationships and positive interactions with clinicians and health care administrators. 

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation 

EQ can help prevent emotions affecting clinical decisions. This self-awareness can be critical in ensuring each patient is treated with respect & dignity and is provided the highest quality care, thereby covering two of the six core NHS values.5 

Leadership and Teamwork – To be a physician is to lead6

In addition to clinical responsibilities, physicians serve as leaders and advocates and medicine involves leadership responsibilities at various levels i.e. individual, community, and societal levels. 

EQ accounts for 67% of the abilities needed for leaders and mattered twice as much as IQ. 7 Besides leadership, teamwork is essential for best patient outcomes and high EQ individuals create better connected and motivated teams. A lack of EQ, a source of failure as a leader, results in being overly defensive, resolving conflict poorly, and not connecting well with your team.8 

Despite the unfocused attention towards leadership, it can make an important difference in better clinical outcomes, experiences, increased empathy, and financial sustainability; not only this, but it also affects physician well-being. EQ and higher levels of leadership can help make physicians more resilient to the stresses of professional burnout and result in greater professional satisfaction. Overall, higher EQ increases both influence and change and helps physicians become the type of leader that others want to follow.

Conclusion: What is important – EQ or IQ? 

Let us picture it: High IQ but can’t get along with others? Or high EQ but unable to make the correct diagnosis? Without the other, achieving success would be a huge struggle. 

Instead of focusing on one aspect of intelligence, the greatest benefit may lie in learning to improve the less dominant one.

A successful doctor cannot have one but not the other. Instead of focusing on one aspect of intelligence, the greatest benefit will come from striving to learn the one lacking. 

Doctors with EQ besides IQ demonstrate greater influence, deliver positive results and create leaders. In the future, new technologies based on Artificial Intelligence and surgical robots will enhance technical expertise, but not the ability to emulate emotions, making EQ more valuable than ever. 

EQ can also be enhanced9 and IQ can be increased10, so what does this mean? 

Multiple aspects of intelligence are all essential to the growth in the field of medicine. The perfect balance of the qualities which lie in both is what makes not only ‘good’, but a ‘great’ doctor. 

Asmita Anand, Youth Medical Journal 2021



7Goleman, D. (1998). Working With Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY. Bantum Books



An Analysis of the Impact of Alcohol on Mental Health in “Streetcar Named Desire”

Text below taken from Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, 1986:


Mitch!–just a minute.

[She rushes about frantically, hiding the bottle in a closet, crouching at the mirror, and dabbing her face with cologne and powder. She is so excited that her breath is audible as she dashes about. At last, she rushes to the door in the kitchen and lets him in.]

Mitch!–Y’know, I really shouldn’t let you in after the treatment I have received from you this evening! So utterly un cavalier! But hello, beautiful!

[She offers him her lips. He ignores it and pushes past her into the flat. She looks fearfully after him as he stalks into the bedroom.]

My, my, what a cold shoulder! And such uncouth apparel! Why you haven’t even shaved! The unforgivable insult to a lady! But I forgive you. I forgive you because it’s such a relief to see you. You’ve stopped that polka tune that I had caught in my head. Have you ever had anything caught in your head? No, of course, you haven’t, you dumb angel-puss, you’d never get anything awful caught in your head!

[He stares at her while she follows him while she talks. It is obvious that he has had a few drinks on the way over.]


Do we have to have that fan on?




I don’t like fans.


Then let’s turn it off, honey. I’m not partial to them!

[She presses the switch and the fan nods slowly off. She clears her throat uneasily as Mitch plumps himself down on the bed in the bedroom and lights a cigarette.] I don’t know what there is to drink. I–haven’t investigated.


I don’t want Stan’s liquor.


It isn’t Stan’s. Everything here isn’t Stan’s. Some things on the premises are actually mine! How is your mother? Isn’t your mother well?




Something’s the matter tonight but never mind. I won’t cross-examine the witness. I’ll just–[She touches her forehead vaguely. The polka tune starts up again.]–pretend I don’t notice anything different about you! That–music again…


What music?


The “Varaouviana”! The polka tune they were playing when Allan–Wait!

[A distant revolver shot is heard. Blanche seems relieved.] There now, the shot! It always stops after that.

[The polka music dies out again.]

Yes, now it’s stopped.


Are you boxed out of your mind?


I’ll go and see what I can find in the way of–[She crosses into the closet, pretending to search for the bottle.]

Oh, by the way, excuse me for not being dressed. But I’d practically given you up! Had you forgotten your invitation to supper?


I wasn’t going to see you anymore.


Wait a minute. I can’t hear what you’re saying and you talk so little that when you do say something, I don’t want to miss a single syllable of it… What am I looking around here for? Oh, yes–liquor! We’ve had so much excitement around here this evening that I am boxed out of my mind!

[She pretends suddenly to find the bottle. He draws his foot up on the bed and stares at her contemptuous]


The impact of alcohol on mental health is a prevalent global issue throughout the world. It is also seen through many literary texts. For instance, this issue is explored in the play “Streetcar named desire” and mentions of such issues are deeply layered to discover and inspect the human mind. This is seen throughout this dialogue and that Blanche is on the influence of the drug, and as a result her physiological and mental state are deterred, which is coupled with Mitch’s rejection of her love. Tennessee Williams effectively portrays this through various literary devices such as juxtaposition and employing music to develop Blanche’s mental deterioration and her dependence on alcohol. For example, in the first dialogue, William utilizes the polka music to demonstrate Blanche’s instability and the resulting halt of the music coupled with Mitch’s entrance showcases the emotional connection and affection that Blanche has for Mitch, and it further illustrates that Mitch’s company is the only way for Blanche to escape her guilt from her husband’s death; however, her attempt later falters as her facade, symbolized by the makeup, crumples as Mitch realizes about her past. Thus, this action parallels Blanche’s failure to kiss Mitch and capture his love which also juxtaposes Mitch’s contemplation to kiss her in scene 6. This rejection comes as a shock to Blanche because she is not used to being rejected to be intimate with men. This is revealed in scene 9 where she confirms the fact that she uses sexual encounters with random strangers to fill up the hole in her heart after the fact that her husband had died. This superficial attempt, subsequently, resulted in Blanche’s dependence on alcohol and her ensuing guilt for her husband’s death to fill the gaping hole. Her tolerance for alcohol is shown as she appears on one side to be agitated but then also reverses to being welcoming and giddy. She then becomes delusional and lies about where her drink is like in Scene 1 to her sister Stella and then pretends to worry about Mitch’s mother. Her instability comes to a boiling point and hence the polka music resumes again and even Mitch couldn’t stop this repetitive music that seems to inevitably drive Blanche to insanity. This shift results in Blanche to become reliant on alcohol and risking her mental sanity to solve her problems and cope with the foreboding music that alludes to the guilt of her husband’s death.

Frank Liu, Youth Medical Journal 2020


Reis, Kurt, and Tennessee Williams. A StreetCar Named Desire. 1986.