The present study compared two populations: medical students and faculty as to their definition of essential traits of the 'good physician' Each group was further divided into the two phases of medical education. The preclinical phase included preclinical students and preclinical faculty, and the clinical phase included two faculty subgroups-surgeons and internists and students in their clinical clerkships. The study was conducted in two phases. In the first phase (the pilot study), faculty and students (n = 90) specified 24 traits in a random fashion. These traits were made the basis of a structured questionnaire which was administered in the second phase. In phase 2, all participants (n = 388) were requested to grade the five most important traits on a 1-4 scale. The results show a remarkable general agreement on the desirable traits among all participants. However, there is a significant difference in the ordering of the five most important traits among the subgroups. The jive most important traits perceived were: honesty, humane approach to patients, responsibility, knowledge and professional skill, and ability to discriminate between important and minor issues. The relation between our results and those of others on the implications of role models on the formation and the education of the ideal physician is discussed.