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Case Studies in Academic Medicine

Kanter, Steven L. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181d953f3
From the Editor

Everyone who works in a medical school or teaching hospital has heard someone say, “Don't make too much of that article. It's not a real study, just a case study.”

In one way, those who say that might be correct. Not every case study in clinical medicine adds significantly to the clinical literature, and there is no question that a clinical case study of a single patient, or of a small collection of patients, has limited value for developing robust and general conclusions about a particular disease, syndrome, or condition.

However, case studies that are analytic and penetrating, that illuminate fundamental precepts and concepts, and that reveal new avenues for research or theory development have the potential to broaden and deepen knowledge and understanding in a way that might not be available otherwise. That's why this journal is interested in publishing case studies that explore important issues about medical schools and teaching hospitals—not clinical case studies, but academic medicine case studies.

In this issue of the journal, you will find such a case study by Levine et al. titled “A Mid-Clerkship Crisis: Lessons Learned from Advising a Medical Student with Career Indecision” and a related Commentary by Cayea et al. “Using a Case Presentation Format to Advance Understandings About Educating and Supporting Medical Trainees.”

Levine et al.'s case study increases our understanding of the principles and practice of advising students, residents, and other mentees. Furthermore, it illuminates key concepts and offers emergent themes that are generalizable to other advising encounters. The commentary by Cayea et al. discusses the value of the case study as a tool for improving our ability to understand and manage challenging problems.

Of course, the value of a case study is not limited to any one aspect of the academic medicine environment. In addition to a student or resident, the “subject” of a case study could be a faculty member, a department or division, or even an entire school or hospital.

Academic Medicine will strive to publish case studies that are grounded in relevant literature, advance compelling arguments, offer critical analyses of underlying issues, identify and challenge assumptions, and present synthetic and interpretive discussions. Such rigorous studies of a single case at one medical school or teaching hospital have the important potential to improve thinking and practice at other schools and hospitals.

Steven L. Kanter, MD

© 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges