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Identity Formation of Occasional Faculty Developers in Medical Education: A Qualitative Study

O’Sullivan, Patricia S. MS, EdD; Irby, David M. MDiv, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000374
Research Reports

Purpose: Faculty developers play a crucial role in preparing faculty members for their instructional responsibilities. In some programs, faculty developers are clinicians and scientists who only occasionally conduct workshops. The authors examine the identity formation of such part-time faculty developers.

Method: From April 2012 through March 2012, structured interviews were conducted with full-time faculty members who, from 2007 to 2012, periodically volunteered to teach workshops in the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine’s faculty development program. This qualitative study used a modified grounded theory approach.

Results: The authors interviewed 29 occasional faculty developers who had 1 to 22 years of experience conducting faculty development programs. All faculty had an educator identity along with their professional identity. The additional faculty developer identity generally evolved over time and aligned with their identity in one of four ways: compartmentalized, hierarchical, parallel, or merged. Their roles as faculty developers enhanced their status in their work community and influenced the way they worked with others and advanced their careers. Faculty development influences the institutional culture, and the institutional culture supports faculty development.

Conclusions: Most occasional faculty developers possessed a merged identity that developed over time and was moderated by the topic that they taught. Although experience contributed to this development, both junior and senior faculty developers could have a merged identity. Those who lead faculty development programs can use these findings to recruit and retain faculty developers.

Dr. O’Sullivan is professor, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

Dr. Irby is professor, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Received from the University of California, San Francisco committee for the protection of human subjects.

Previous presentation: The authors presented this work at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, April 30, 2013, San Francisco, California.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. O’Sullivan, 521 Parnassus Ave., Box 0410, San Francisco, CA 94143-0410; telephone: (415) 514-2281; e-mail:

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges