Here’s How We Did It: Eliminating Barriers of Early Medical Education Scholarship

Although a randomized, controlled education study may be the ultimate goal in medical education research, a new attending physician may not possess the confidence, experience, or skills to do so in year one. In our Academic Medicine Last Page “Hit the Ground Running: Engaging Early-Career Medical Educators in Scholarly Activity,” we encourage our physician colleagues to broaden the scope of what counts as medical education scholarly work by presenting four tips for learning the landscape, four types of presentation-based work, and four types of publication-based work in order of complexity. To supplement this guide, here is our advice on how each of us hit the ground running early in our careers.

Flint Y. Wang, MD is assistant professor of clinical medicine, hospitalist, and director of education for the hospitalist service line, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When I started as an attending, I had no idea where to start. What and where could I aspire to publish? What topics do journals care about? One thing I now recommend to my mentees is to go to faculty profile websites of attendings in your same specialty at different comparable hospitals. I saw where hospitalists interested in education were publishing and presenting. I learned what leadership roles they were given and to which non-traditional groups they lectured. While there are many paths within medical education, it is much easier to determine your own path after learning the landscape of how others with similar credentials in the same specialty achieved success in their first few years.

I have sometimes felt intimidated by those who had masters or doctorate degrees outside of medicine and could be much more proficient at study design and statistics. The prospect of doing a research trial in education was too daunting. As I started to explore and create commentary pieces, letters to the editor, and educational graphics, it helped me feel more comfortable eventually moving toward more complex forms of research and scholarly work. Research in medical education is hard to jump right into. Sometimes you need to “get your feet wet” to build up confidence.

Corrie A. Stankiewicz, MD, MSEd is associate professor of clinical medicine, hospitalist, and director of the medical education leadership track, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I believe that the most important thing an aspiring medical educator can do is to find educational mentors. Initially these mentors should be within your own institution as they will know of relevant, accessible networking and collaboration opportunities, and they will be familiar with potential local resources available to support your educational scholarship activities.  Your early meetings should be geared toward helping you understand the landscape of medical education activities at your institution. My mentors were integral to my early achievements as an educator – they supported projects that I, as a junior faculty member, did not have the standing or credibility to tackle on my own and they helped me to navigate institutional dynamics.  In my opinion, the importance of mentors for early career educators cannot be overstated.

Nadia L. Bennett, MD, MSEd is associate professor of clinical medicine, hospitalist, and associate dean of the UME clinical and health systems sciences curriculum, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

One major aspect that can lead to an early educator’s success is the concept of “making it count twice.” Here, the educator can repurpose a scholarly pursuit they are passionate about by presenting and disseminating the information in multiple settings. What may begin as a small well-received resident teaching session can be adapted into a grand rounds lecture, poster presentation, national conference workshop or letter to the editor. With enough planning, an early educator can also consider collaborating with others to transform the scholarly pursuit into a research publication. As you find different avenues to exhibit your work, you will continue to build your skill set and become more recognized as a content expert in the area.

We hope these suggestions, along with our Academic Medicine Last Page, provide early career educators and their mentors with concrete tips to hit the ground running.

Further Reading

Wang FY, Stankiewicz CA, Bennett NL, Myers JS. Hit the ground running: Engaging early-career medical educators in scholarly activity. Acad Med. 2019;94:1837.