Editorial Board Q&A: Frederic W. Hafferty, PhD

fred-haffertyFrederic W. Hafferty, PhD, professor of medical education, Division of General Internal Medicine and Program in Professionalism and Values, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Describe your current activities. 

I continue to try to locate boundaries and then push against the limits of my thinking and my imagination (not the same thing). Right now I am trying to reconcile how organizations and institutions (not the same thing for sociologists) function as sites of cultural reproduction versus cultural agitation. As ideal types, reproduction leads to stagnation while agitation to chaos. As such, both organizations (e.g., medical schools) and institutions (e.g., medical education) are challenged to both preserve and persevere in changing times. How this plays out in medical education remains a fascinating tension for me. Right now, my most recent Academic Medicine thinking on this topic can be found in the 2016 article “Alternative Framings, Countervailing Visions: Locating the “P” in Professional Identity Formation” written with colleagues/friends Barret Michalec, Tina Martimianakis, and Jon Tilburt.

What gaps do you see in the current academic medicine scholarship?

My bias–and this dates back to my graduate student heroes Sam Bloom and Eliot Freidson–is that I tend to look for and then read articles on medicine and medical education from organizational and social structural perspectives, and thus, in turn, never feel that there is enough being published at this level of analysis.

Name two to three seminal Academic Medicine articles that everyone in your field should read.

I tend to be captivated by titles and always try to begin my own writing with (what I imagine to be) a pithy titular lead. One of my favorites is the medical anthropologist Janelle Taylor and her 2003 piece “Confronting ‘Culture’ in Medicine’s ‘Culture of No Culture’.” Absolutely delicious. So too is Catherine Lucy and Chip Souba’s 2010 “The Problem With the Problem of Professionalism.” A good title “makes” me want to read the article. A good title also guarantees (for me) provocative content. There are, of course, many more examples from Academic Medicine, but these are the first two that came to mind.

Finally, and although not an Academic Medicine piece, my all time favorite hidden curriculum title is “Blinded by Belonging: Revealing the Hidden Curriculum” by Susan Phillips. Although I had never met the author, I wrote her to express both admiration and jealousy. I wish I had been creative enough to front such a framing.

What issues will we be reading about in Academic Medicine in five years? 

Part of my answer lies above–more work at the levels of social and structural analysis–but I confess that this question was the hardest (and last I tried) to answer. Editors shape the journal, as they should, and each, my first being Addeane Caelleigh who empathically worked with me on my first Academic Medicine publication, has brought a different vision to the journal. I guess I’d rather be surprised than predictive.

What book(s) are you reading right now? 

The work/fun distinction is a narrow space for me. On the fiction side, I tend to be a streak reader and now I am non-systematically working my way through the writings of Walter Mosley, who situates many of his fiction characters within the social architecture of inner city post-War II LA . It is an alien world to me, one filled with community and a sense of connectedness along with the omnipresent lurking of a white power establishment and its agents of subjugation. In this same obsessive swoop, I just finished all of John Connolly’s works, an Irish writer who intersects the detective and the spiritual. Connolly’s book jacket claims he is a “genre of one.” I concur. What a wonderful moniker.

As for non-fiction, I have pushed my reading into the topic areas of unconscious bias and microaggressions and how these largely social-psychological framings intersect with the more social-structural framings of the hidden curriculum. Bridging these two domains is an interesting challenge.

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