Reflections from the Liminal Space: A Clinician Educator Connects Many Worlds

by Daniel Brandt-Vegas

Daniel Brandt-Vegas, MD is an assistant professor of general internal medicine at McMaster University.

Turning into a Clinician Educator can look like a lot of different things. For many physicians it’s a path towards a career in an academic institution that allows them to avoid clinical and basic science research. For others it’s a natural step towards developing their love for teaching in the clinical setting while emulating their own mentors and teachers. For me becoming a Clinician Educator has been the way to combine two separate vocations into a single career path. It has allowed me to practice as a clinician, while also developing as an educational leader and researcher. As I move from an early to mid career stage I realize how important it is to manage and protect time for different projects and parts of my career. This becomes increasingly relevant the broader and more versatile my career gets.

Perhaps the two most important lessons I’ve taken starting my career as a Clinician Educator are:

  • Clinical work is definitely more “urgent” than the education work is, in the day-to-day, immediate consequence sense. You have to protect your education work time in order to thrive, otherwise the clinical work will eat it all up and your educator component will become just a pile of crumbs.
  • Medical education exists in (at least) two separate worlds. One is the theoretical, research driven, super-interesting, nerdy, world of health professions educators. The other one is the institutional, clinical setting, training program driven, world of medical education. One should never underestimate how far these worlds can be. Despite this, one cannot exist without the other. Learning and understanding the dynamic, differences, and interdependence of these two worlds is a key determinant to your success as a Clinician Educator.

Being a Clinician Educator presents the challenges described above, but it also offers the unique position of crossing over the two worlds of medical education. It gives the authentic real-world perspective of how education research translates into the front line of teaching and patient care. You get to experience what works and what doesn’t. I continue to use these experiences and perspectives to fuel my leadership strategies and define my research questions, as I grow into the clinician my patients deserve and the educator my students need.

Featured image via Hobie Caldwell on Flickr