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The Role of Professional Medical Education Societies in Fostering Professional Identity

Heitz, James W. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000782
Letters to the Editor

Associate professor of anesthesiology and medicine, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;

Disclosures: None reported.

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To the Editor:

I read with keen interest the article by Sabel and colleagues1 describing the barriers to professional identity construction as a medical educator among physicians in the United Kingdom. The experience of anesthesiology in the United States may serve to illustrate one facet of fostering professional identity as a medical educator.

The fee-for-service payment model employed in the U.S. health care system has increasingly relied on operative services as revenue generators for hospitals. As such, anesthesiologists in the United States work among the longest clinical hours among all specialists2 while simultaneously receiving disproportionately low National Institutes of Health funding for research.3 While both these factors have strained academic anesthesiology departments and pose serious challenges to the recruitment of physician–scientists into their ranks, medical educators among anesthesiologists remain remarkably robust. This is in no small part attributable to vibrant organizations available for anesthesiology educators, including the Society for Education in Anesthesia and the Association of Anesthesiology Core Program Directors. These groups provide crucial support to social identity creation by providing both in-group and out-group definitions of what it means to be a medical educator in anesthesiology.

Professional medical education societies can provide both the peer support and professional development support that is integral to an otherwise busy clinician building social identity as a medical educator. Since the social and economic pressures which impede this process do not appear to be diminishing in the foreseeable future, these organizations will be crucial in supporting the development of clinicians who view themselves as medical educators.

James W. Heitz, MD

Associate professor of anesthesiology and medicine, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;

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1. Sabel E, Archer JEarly Careers Working Group at the Academy of Medical Educators. . “Medical education is the ugly duckling of the medical world” and other challenges to medical educators’ identity construction: A qualitative study. Acad Med. 2014;89:1474–1480
2. Dorsey ER, Jarjoura D, Rutecki GW. Influence of controllable lifestyle on recent trends in specialty choice by US medical students. JAMA. 2003;290:1173–1178
3. Schwinn DA, Balser JR. Anesthesiology physician scientists in academic medicine: A wake-up call. Anesthesiology. 2006;104:170–178
© 2015 by the Association of American Medical Colleges