Serving as a Physician Role Model for a Diverse Population of Medical Learners

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Abstract

Purpose

Medical learners look to role models to better understand the values, attitudes, behaviors, and ethics of the medical profession. This study examined issues related to physicians serving as role models for diverse medical learners.

Method

Between September and November 2000, in-depth semi-structured 30-minute interviews were conducted with 29 highly regarded role models, as judged by medical house officers at two large teaching hospitals in Baltimore, Maryland. Interview transcripts were independently coded and compared for agreement. Content analysis identified several major categories of themes that were examined and conceptually organized.

Results

The informants identified issues that relate to role modeling for diverse medical learners. Subcategories under the domain of similarity facilitates role modeling included learners prefer role models similar to them, role modeling is easier when the learner resembles the teacher, and minority physicians may be better role models for minority learners. Under the domain role modeling when physician–teachers and learners are different were the subcategories extra effort may be necessary, success promotes and inspires confidence, and role modeling across diversity is an achievable objective that should be pursued. The final domain, approaches to differences between physician–teachers and learners, encompassed embrace diversity, act as a consultant and refer when necessary, and minimize and disregard all differences.

Conclusions

The results of this study should draw attention to these issues and may serve as a stimulus for teaching physicians to consider a broader range of options for successful interactions with medical learners who are different from them.

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