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Engaging Learners to Advance Medical Education

Burk-Rafel, Jesse MRes; Jones, R. Logan; Farlow, Janice L. PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001602
Invited Commentaries

Learners are a pillar of academic medicine, yet their voice is seldom heard in national and international scholarly conversations on medical education. However, learners are eager to contribute: in response to a recent open call from Academic Medicine, medical students and residents representing 98 institutions across 11 countries submitted 224 Letters to the Editor on wide-ranging topics. In this Invited Commentary, the authors—three medical students serving in national leadership roles—contextualize several themes discussed in these learner-authored letters.

The authors first explore the unique voice learners contribute to educational innovation, highlighting the value learners add to curricular and systemic educational reform efforts. They then turn to the broader implications of the many submitted letters addressing the culture and humanism of medicine, proposing that learners can be powerful catalysts and partners in cultural change. Despite these benefits, the authors note that learners are largely untapped change agents who are particularly underrepresented in medical education scholarship, finding that students were just 2.8% (39/1,396) of authors and 3.5% (12/340) of first authors among all print publications in Academic Medicine in 2016. The authors conclude by offering tangible steps for the academic medical community to engage learners in leadership, advocacy, and scholarship.

J. Burk-Rafel is a fourth-year medical student, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is primary representative, Association of American Medical Colleges Organization of Student Representatives.

R.L. Jones is a fourth-year medical student, University of Nebraska College of Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska; is chair, American Medical Association (AMA) Medical Student Section Committee on Medical Education; and serves on the National Advisory Panel to the AMA Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium.

J.L. Farlow is an eighth-year MD–PhD student, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, and serves on the Association of American Medical Colleges Board of Directors.

An Academic Medicine Podcast episode featuring this article is available through iTunes.

Funding/Support: None reported.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Disclaimer: The authors’ views are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of their institutions or the organizations they serve.

Correspondence should be addressed to Jesse Burk-Rafel, University of Michigan Medical School, 1301 Catherine St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109; telephone: (206) 334-2187; e-mail:; Twitter: @jbrafel.

© 2017 by the Association of American Medical Colleges