Developing a Professional Identity as a Change Agent Early in Medical School: the Students’ Voice

Catherine McDermott, Kaitlyn Shank, Caleb Shervinskie, Jed Gonzalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


As health systems are adapting to increased accountability for quality outcomes, population health, and collaborative care, medical schools are adapting curricula to better prepare physicians to function in health systems. Two components of this educational transformation are (1) increasing physician competence in Health Systems Science, including quality, population health, social determinants of health, and interprofessional collaboration, and (2) providing roles for students to act as change agents while adding value to the health system. The authors, three medical students who served as patient navigators during their first year of medical school, provide perspectives regarding their clinical systems learning roles, which spanned the levels of individual patients, clinic operations, and the health system. Specifically, authors describe working with a struggling patient, developing an intake assessment tool to aid clinical operations, and creating a directory of community-based resources. Authors discuss educational benefits, including understanding social determinants of health, barriers to care, and inefficiencies within the healthcare system. Several challenges are explored, including the importance of student initiative and concerns about traditional curricular outcomes. Through early experiences, students describe developing a professional identity as a change agent, while also learning key competencies required for clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)750-753
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Internal Medicine


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