Are you interested in pursuing a career in medical education in Emergency Medicine? Do you know what that exactly means and entails? It’s not just teaching medical students or residents. It’s now much more than that.

The academic niche of medical education in EM (and all of Medicine actually) is still a very ill-defined field with limited opportunities for funding and career development. We all know that educators are important and should be valued, but how does one build a successful career in academic medical education? As someone trying to build a niche in such an area, I sadly haven’t found the answer yet but am constantly on the lookout for it. Part of the reason is that it is hard to navigate somewhere without a known end-target in mind.

So what is the definition of academic medical education?

The professional identity of academic medical education is still in evolution. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Boyer categorized the definition of scholarship into 4 equally important areas: Discovery, Integration, Application, and Teaching. Each of these areas are relevant for the academic medical educator:

  • Discovery: Conduct original research in medical education
  • Integration: Draw on insights from various disciplines to improve medical education
  • Application: Involvement in professional services and organizations related to medical education to enact more global and systems changes in medical education
  • Teaching: Transmit and maintain the continuity of medical knowledge across generations

This has since spawned debate that “teaching” per se (eg. bedside teaching of a medical student) doesn’t really count as scholarship. While important, it’s not scholarship. “Scholarly teaching” instead means more that one is utilizing the evidence-based literature to design, apply, or evaluate an educational process AND subsequent submission of this work for peer-review publication and dissemination.

Thank goodness for my CDEM colleagues who constantly are pushing me to submit my works for peer-review publication, and vice versa. It’s annoying sometimes since you just want to bask in the glory of building/teaching something, but it’s super-important to study and disseminate it thereafter. All of us in academics need to surround ourselves with colleagues who look out for us and our careers. I’m happy to be your annoying reminder, if you just let me know!

The authors of this article suggest that the medical educator’s role should be defined not only by the criteria of Teaching and Research, but also by a new criteria — Scholarly Management. This means serving in some leadership role, such as a course director, professional society position, or medical school dean. This creates a triangle framework for defining the role of the medical educator.
Where do you fall on the teacher-researcher, teacher-manager, and research-manager lines? If I plot myself out along each of the lines, you can see where I am with the red dots. Realistically, we constantly shift ourselves along these lines as our career develops, and now we can more visually define and track it.

Give this article a read. It shed new light on medical education for me. The role of the academic medical educator is still a little fuzzy for me but now it’s slowly becoming clearer.

Bligh J, Brice J. Further insights into the roles of the medical educator: the importance of scholarly management. Acad Med. 2009 Aug;84(8):1161-5.

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD