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What’s your resident persona and how could it shape your career?

Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses can go a long way toward forging the ideal career path in medicine. One program is implementing a curriculum that helps physicians-in-training identify their “resident persona” and learn how it could help them find their way to flourishing in medicine.

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The aim of the Goals of Life and Learning Delineated Project (GOL²D)—a collaborative effort between Vanderbilt University Medical Center and University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMCC)—is to address professional identity development in graduate medical education. To do this, the project, which is among eight awarded funding from the AMA as part of the AMA Reimagining Residency initiative, will train residents in one of five different physician personae.

The first step is for a resident to identify which physician persona best fits their goals and skills. Jimmy Stewart, MD, professor of medicine and associate dean for graduate medical education at UMCC, is one of two primary investigators on the project. He offered some insight on each of the five resident personae.

The structurally competent, structurally humble physician

This physician persona is one that focuses on the social determinants of health from a structural standpoint. In essence, this physician is one who looks at how things are put together and then pushes for changes at the clinical level that address health inequalities.

So, what type of career would this persona ideally pursue?

“It might be somebody with a career trajectory that ends up in a clinic in a rural or urban setting—someone who is interested in public health offices,” Dr. Stewart said.

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The creative, curious physician

Residents who follow this persona are going to be drawn toward problem-solving and innovation. Dr. Stewart offered the example of this physician type being interested in translational research, meaning they apply what’s known from biology and clinical trials to develop tools and techniques to meet patient needs.

“This would be one of those areas where we look at how you innovate in whatever area you are practicing in, and how do you do that with some strategies that use design thinking in innovation,” Dr. Stewart said.

The physician as leader and advocate

This persona is someone who is working for change on the largest scale. As part of the project, Dr. Stewart and the supporting programs aim to give students who identify with the advocate persona know-how on creating policy and making it stick.

“If you’re an advocate you could work with organizations like the AMA,” he said. “There’s a spectrum here. If they wanted to have a leadership role as their local or state chapter leader in the AMA or in their health care organizations in their specialties, this would give residents more training in how you do that effectively.”

The physician grounded in health systems science

Health systems science is the study of how care is delivered, how health care professionals work together to deliver that care, and how the health system can improve patient care and health care delivery. This physician persona is one that is going to look at aspects of health systems science, such as quality improvement and patient safety, in great detail.

In terms of practical application, this physician persona may lead one to a career that extends beyond the clinical realm.

“There’s a lot of jobs emerging in larger health care systems in data analytics that are looking for physicians to take a role in that,” Dr. Stewart said. “Also, with health systems science knowledge, this skill set could apply to somebody who wants to work in the C-suite, particularly around the areas of patient experience in hospitals.”

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The master adaptive learner and teacher

As the name suggests, this physician persona is likely to interest anyone who aims to work in academic medicine. The master adaptive learner and teacher is someone who goes beyond understanding how they developed their skills to focus on how they can develop future physicians.

Dr. Stewart said the master adaptive learner and teacher applies to “anybody who wants to develop a career as a clinician educator, who has an interest in teaching or a background in teaching those skills that every physician has to learn so they can continue lifelong development in their specialty.

“To take it a step further, as a teacher,” he added, “you can ask what some of the basics of adult learning theory are and how do you put that into practice in practical ways in medical education.”