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A Qualitative Focus Group Exploration of How Educators Maintain Identity in a Sea of Competing Demands

Jauregui, Joshua, MD; O’Sullivan, Patricia, EdD; Kalishman, Summers, PhD; Nishimura, Holly; Robins, Lynne, PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002394
Research Reports

Purpose Longitudinal faculty development programs (LFDPs) are communities of practice (CoPs) that support development of participants’ educator identity (EID). This study explored how program graduates negotiated their newly formed EIDs among competing identities and demands in academic medicine.

Method In this multicenter, cross-sectional, qualitative study, graduates of two LFDP cohorts (one and five years post graduation) were invited in 2015 to participate in a one-hour, cohort-specific focus group. The focus group included questions about views of themselves as educators, experiences of transition out of the LFDP, and sustainability of their EID following program participation. Researchers analyzed transcripts using Wenger’s CoP and Tajfel’s social identity theories to guide interpretation of findings.

Results Thirty-seven graduates, 17 from one year and 20 from five years post graduation, participated in eight focus groups. They described developing a new EID in their LFDP CoPs. Three major themes emerged: context, agency, and identity. A push–pull relationship among these themes influenced faculty members’ EID trajectory over time. Graduates described feeling unmoored from their LFDP community after graduation and relied on individual agency to remoor their new identities to supports in the larger institutional context.

Conclusions LFDP graduation represented a transition point. Graduates found it challenging to lose supports from their time-limited CoP and remoor their EIDs to workplace supports. Remooring required individual agency and external support and affirmation. Faculty development programs must be designed with transition periods and sustainability in mind to ensure that participants and institutions can benefit from their transformative effects over time.

J. Jauregui is assistant professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

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

S. Kalishman is professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

H. Nishimura is research analyst, Center for Faculty Educators, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

L. Robins is professor, Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Funding/Support: This study was funded in part by the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Educational Affairs national grant and the Western Group on Educational Affairs regional grant, as well as a seed grant by the University of Washington’s Center for Leadership and Innovation in Medical Education.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: The institutional review boards at all study institutions approved this study.

Previous presentations: The abstract of an earlier version of this study was presented at the 2016 Association of American Medical Colleges National Conference on November 14, 2016, in Seattle, Washington; and the 2016 Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) National Conference on August 28, 2016, Barcelona, Spain.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Correspondence should be addressed to Joshua Jauregui, Box 359702, 1CT89, 325 9th Ave., Seattle, WA 98104; e-mail:; Twitter: @joshuajauregui.

© 2019 by the Association of American Medical Colleges