UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of General Medicine and Primary Care; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Publication Date


Document Type



Medical Education


Background: Professional identity formation is a key aim of medical education, yet empiric data on how this forms are limited.

Methods: Our study is a qualitative analysis of student reflections written during the final session of our Becoming a Physician curriculum. After reading their medical school admission essay and their class oath, students wrote about a "time, or times during your third year when you felt like a doctor." The reflections were qualitatively analyzed by the evaluation team, looking for themes found in the reflections.

Results: Narrative themes separated into 4 distinct categories, specifically that performing physician tasks can make one feel like a doctor, demonstrating caring is a fundamental task of doctors, integrating personal ideals with professional values promotes professional identity formation, and the theme of never feeling like a doctor. Subsets of these broad categories provide further insight into individual and integrative tasks. Patients, patient families, and students through their own reflection prompted learners to feel like doctors in 74% of narratives, whereas physicians or the care team did so in 26% of our narratives.

Conclusion: Students are able to reflect on times during their principal clinical year where they feel like doctors, taking a step toward forming a professional identity. Having faculty prompt and support such reflection can help faculty understand the student experience of their principal clinical year and promote professional identity formation.


Professional identity formation, medical education, medical students, professional development

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

DOI of Published Version



J Med Educ Curric Dev. 2019 Mar 26;6:2382120519834546. doi: 10.1177/2382120519834546. eCollection 2019 Jan-Dec. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of medical education and curricular development

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License