Influences on and Characteristics of the Professional Identity Formation of Clinician Educators: A Qualitative Analysis

Justin D. Triemstra, Maya S. Iyer, Larry Hurtubise, Rachel Stork Poeppelman, Teri Lee Turner, Charlene Dewey, Reena Karani, H. Barrett Fromme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose Professional identity formation is the process of internalizing the ideals, values, and beliefs of a profession. In recent years, research on clinician-educator (CE) identity formation has expanded, yet gaps exist in understanding initial influences on an educator identity, sustainment throughout a career, and development of successful pathways for early CEs. This study explored the initial influences on and characteristics of the professional identity formation of CEs in an age-diverse, multispecialty population in the United States. Method This was a cross-sectional qualitative study of a purposive sample of medical educators at 6 institutions across the United States between 2018 and 2019. Focus groups were conducted to obtain participants' perspectives on their career choice and subsequent formation of their professional identity as CEs. The authors used a thematic analysis of focus group data to identify themes and domains through an iterative process. Results Twelve focus groups were conducted with a total of 93 participants. Responses were categorized into 5 domains: community supportive of medical education, culture of institution and training, personal characteristics, facilitators, and professionalization of medical education. Themes highlighted the importance of role models and mentors, an affinity and aptitude for teaching and education, specific facilitators for entry into a career in medical education, the evolution from a layperson, importance of formalized training programs, and a supportive academic community. Conclusions Clinicians experienced a variety of factors that influenced their initial career choice in medical education and subsequent professional identity formation as a CE. This study confirms and expands the current understanding of this process in an age-diverse, multispecialty population of CEs. Educators and administrators designing career development programs across the continuum of medical education should consider these aspects as they mentor and support their learners and faculty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-591
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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