Unmasking Identity: Observations From a Cohort of Entering Medical Students

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Professional identity formation (PIF) is increasingly recognized as a core element of medical education. The use of narrative reflection is traditionally the most common means to explore PIF. We explored the use of mask-making as a process of reflective expression to encourage iterative exploration of professional identity in medical students. This project focused on elements of personal and professional identity in a cohort of entering students. METHODS: One hundred fifty entering students at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine created a mask to use descriptive words to express their perceptions of an ideal physician (external face of the mask) and their sense of self (internal face of the mask). Responses were compared to established domains of professional identity. RESULTS: Students most commonly listed elements in the domain of personal characteristics to describe both their sense of self and of an ideal physician. Students were more likely to list emotional elements when describing self and more likely to use elements in the domains of relationships, attitudes, and duties/responsibilities when describing an ideal physician. CONCLUSIONS: The beginning of medical school is a time of significant transition. Mask making can blend visual and narrative arts to provide a complementary tool to examine professional identity formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-123
Number of pages4
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Family Practice


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