In an editorial two years ago, I expressed concerns about the state of medical education research in this country, and challenged the medical education research community to adopt a new research agenda—one that would explore the linkage between medical education interventions and the clinical outcomes produced by doctors who had experienced those interventions.1 That editorial sparked a number of interesting exchanges with members of the research community, and helped prompt a constructive dialogue within the community itself. Throughout many of the ensuing discussions, I was struck by the apparent lack of consensus regarding a number of factors affecting the conduct of medical education research.
After reflecting on this and sharing my thoughts with the editorial staff, we decided to devote an issue of the journal entirely to these factors. We agreed that it would be particularly valuable to publish the issue at roughly the same time as the Research in Medical Education Conference, which is held each year during the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)'s annual meeting. We hope the timing of this issue will stimulate discussion and debate during the meeting—both informally, in the hallways or over coffee, and formally, during presentations made as part of the meeting.
Ann Steinecke, who coordinates the editing of the journal's monthly Research Reports, took responsibility for determining the content of this issue, and solicited manuscripts from authors particularly qualified to address these topics. The high quality of this month's articles and case studies reflects her skilled dedication to this project, and serves as a tribute to the contributions she has made to the journal over the years.
In my opinion, the collection of articles provides a wonderful overview of the important issues facing the medical education research community, and the collection of case studies offers important insights into the various ways academic institutions can organize their efforts to contribute to the medical education research agenda.
Michael E. Whitcomb, MD
1.Whitcomb ME. Research in medical education: what do we know about the link between what doctors are taught and what they do? Acad Med. 2002;77:105–06.