Sneak Peek from Academic Medicine: Defining the 21st Century Clinician–Educator

Later this month, Academic Medicine will post its published ahead-of-print articles for the May 2014 issue. To tide you over until then, here’s a preview of an article by Jonathan Sherbino and colleagues.

Defining the Key Roles and Competencies of the Clinician–Educator of the 21st Century: A National Mixed-Methods Study

Jonathan Sherbino, MD, MEd, Jason R. Frank, MD, MA (Ed), and Linda Snell, MD, MHPE


To determine a consensus definition of a clinician–educator and the related domains of competence.


From 2010 to 2011, the authors conducted a two phase mixed-methods national study in Canada using (1) focus groups of deans of medicine and directors of medical education centers to define the attributes, domains of competence, and core competencies of clinician–educators using  grounded theory analysis, and (2) a survey of 1,130 deans, academic chairs, and residency program directors to validate the focus group results.


The 22 focus group participants described being active in clinical practice, applying theory to practice, and engaging in education scholarship—but not holding a particular administrative position—as essential attributes of clinician–educators. Program directors accounted for 68% of the 350 survey respondents, academic chairs for 19%, and deans for 13% (response rate: 31%). Among respondents, 85% endorsed the need for physician with advanced training in medical education to serve as educational consultants. Domains of clinician–educator competence endorsed by >85% of respondents as important or very important were assessment, communication, curriculum development, education theory, leadership, scholarship, and teaching. With regard to training requirements, 55% endorsed a master’s degree in education as effective preparation, whereas 39% considered faculty development programs effective.


On the basis of the findings of this study, the authors defined a clinician–educator as a clinician active in health professional practice who applies theory to education practice, engages in education scholarship, and serves as a consultant to other health professionals on education issues.

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One Comment

  1. Kemi
    March 16, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    I am pleased to find that there is a recently published article that discusses the master’s in education track as a way for health professionals to develop into effective clinician educators. There are only a few research articles on this topic and it could be due to the slowly developing number of programs (including masters in health professions education) for current and future health professionals.

    I noticed that a majority of respondents favor a masters in education. I wonder if the 39% of respondents favoring faculty development programs are reffering to current faculty development programs or future ones. Perhaps those with a masters in education will lead the way in establishing better faculty development programs.

    Finally, the part about such clinician-educators as educational consultants is encouraging and necessary. How often do practicing physicians consult other physicians on best educational practices? It could pave the way to healthcare reform and address “health literacy.” Less than 15 percent of population is “health proficient.” Health literacy experts believe that to increase health literacy, health providers will have to team up with communication and education experts. Perhaps providers grounded in best education practices can play a leading role here.

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