This #MedEdPearls highlights the importance of and need to understand the Professional Identify Formation (PIF) of physicians considered to be under-represented in medicine (URM) as supported by in the article Whispers and Shadows: A critical review of the professional identity literature with respect to minority physicians by Tasha Wyatt and colleagues. Dr. Wyatt first presented on this topic at the 2019 Generalists in Medical Education conference via an Ignite session which exposed the gap in the current PIF literature and the need to illuminate race and ethnicity as it relates to PIF.


Helmich et al. remind us that identity is about answering the question “Who am I?” and is achieved from a careful examination of identity across three levels: personal, role, and group. PIF focuses on the internalization of a profession’s core values and beliefs and how these manifest in practice. Societal expectations of both the medical profession and medical professional are shaped by the cultural contexts and institutional environments in which they are encountered. Historically, cultural and institutional contexts have been absent in discussions about PIF. In fact, what is currently known about PIF has been largely informed by a studies conducted within the dominant Westernized culture. As such, Wyatt et al. performed a meta-ethnography study to examine the PIF literature and exposed the absence of the URM perspective. Their work presented a robust research agenda into URM PIF to right side the absence of URM in the PIF literature. Wyatt et al. specifically call for:

  1. Exploration of how current URM physicians have been impacted as a result of being excluded from the PIF literature
  2. Examination of power structures and systems of influence
  3. Longitudinal research to examine URM PIF during career transitions
  4. The need to make explicit the methodological approach to the research and demographics of the research population
  5. The inclusion of other minoritized populations outside of URM

Given the recent events focusing on the racial divide within our country and the focus on promoting diversity within medical education, the outcomes of this research are both informative and timely. 

Join the #MedEdPearls Twitter discussion to share how our #MedEd network can collaborate to address the absence of research in this area. How can we support the PIF of URM? How can we contribute to adding to the URM PIF narrative?



  1. Helmich, E., Yeh, Y., Kalet, A., & Al-Eraky, M. (2017). Becoming a doctor in different cultures: Toward a cross-cultural approach to supporting professional identity formation in medicine. Academic Medicine, 92(1), 58-62.
  2. Wyatt, T., Balmer, D., Rockich-Winston, N., Chow, C., Richards, J., & Zaidi, Z. (2020). Whispers and shadows: A critical review of the professional identify literature with respect to minority physicians. Medical Education, 00: 1-11.



#MedEdPearls are developed monthly by the Central Group on Educational Affairs. Previously, #MedEdPearls explored topics including, ten habits for career success in health professions education, and embracing the power of mentored peer review, and coaching in graduate medical education


Author BIO

Carrie Bowler, MS, MLSCM (ASCP) is Assistant Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology and the Program Manager for Graduate Medical Education at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Carrie’s areas of professional interests include faculty and leadership development, metacognition, and technology enhanced learning and instruction. Carrie can be followed on Twitter or contacted via email.



#MedEdPearls Team:
Jean Bailey, PhD – Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Carrie Bowler, EdD, MS, MLSCM (ASCP) – Mayo Clinic
Kristina Dzara, PhD, MMSc (Educators ’16; Assessment ’16; HCE 2.0 ’17) – University of Washington School of Medicine
Shanu Gupta, MD – University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital
Jennifer Hillyer, PhD – Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Medicine
Larry Hurtubise, PhD (HCE 2.0 '16) – The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy
Anna Lama, EdD – West Virginia School of Medicine
Machelle Linsenmeyer, EdD, NAOME (Assessment ’07) – West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine
Linda Love, EdD – University of Nebraska Medical Center
Leah Sheridan, PhD – The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
Lonika Sood, MBBS, MHPE, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Washington State University
Mark Terrell, EdD – Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine