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Defining the Key Roles and Competencies of the Clinician–Educator of the 21st Century: A National Mixed-Methods Study

Sherbino, Jonathan MD, MEd; Frank, Jason R. MD, MA (Ed); Snell, Linda MD, MHPE

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000217
Research Reports

Purpose To determine a consensus definition of a clinician–educator and the related domains of competence.

Method During September 2010 to March 2011, the authors conducted a two-phase mixed-methods national study in Canada using (1) focus groups of deans of medicine and directors of medical education centers to define the attributes, domains of competence, and core competencies of clinician–educators using a grounded theory analysis, and (2) a survey of 1,130 deans, academic chairs, and residency program directors to validate the focus group results.

Results The 22 focus group participants described being active in clinical practice, applying theory to practice, and engaging in education scholarship—but not holding a particular administrative position—as essential attributes of clinician–educators. Program directors accounted for 68% of the 350 survey respondents, academic chairs for 19%, and deans for 13% (response rate: 31%). Among respondents, 85% endorsed the need for physicians with advanced training in medical education to serve as educational consultants. Domains of clinician–educator competence endorsed by >85% of respondents as important or very important were assessment, communication, curriculum development, education theory, leadership, scholarship, and teaching. With regard to training requirements, 55% endorsed a master’s degree in education as effective preparation, whereas 39% considered faculty development programs effective.

Conclusions On the basis of this study's findings, the authors defined a clinician–educator as a clinician active in health professional practice who applies theory to education practice, engages in education scholarship, and serves as a consultant to other health professionals on education issues.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

Dr. Sherbino is associate professor of medicine and director of continuing professional education, Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and clinician–educator, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Frank is associate professor and director of educational research and development, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Ottawa, and director, Specialty Education, Strategy, and Standards, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Snell is professor of medicine and core faculty member, Centre for Medical Education, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and senior clinician–educator, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: The study received ethics approval from the research ethics board of the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Sherbino, Division of Emergency Medicine, Hamilton General Hospital, 2nd Floor, McMaster Clinic, 237 Barton St. E., Hamilton ON L8L 2X2, Canada; e-mail:

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges