Harvard Macy Community Blog

Fostering the ongoing connectedness of health professions educators committed to transforming health care delivery and education.

Mark B Stephens

Add as Friend Message author Subscribe to updates from author

Mark B. Stephens, MD MS FAAFP (Educators ’17; Museum ’19; Virtual ’21) is a Professor of Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Humanities, and a Master Educator at the Penn State College of Medicine. Mark’s areas of professional interest include physician wellness and the integration arts and humanities in medical education. Mark can be followed on Twitter or LinkedIn or contacted via email.

Behind the Mask: Lessons in Professional Identity Formation

Medical students are constantly molding and reshaping their sense of identity in response to multiple internal and external forces coupled with their evolving understanding of what it means to be a physician. It is normal for students to struggle with their professional identity at any given point in time during their educational journey. Much of the identity work that takes place during medical school takes occurs through the informal processes embedded within the hidden curriculum. In this setting, students are told one thing in the formal learning setting while observing something completely different in the clinical environment. This juxtaposition contributes to identity conflict, particularly if a student is trying to be accountable to multiple influences that don’t align. 

With this in mind, helping medical learners explore their professional identity formation (PIF) is a central responsibility in medical education. To facilitate this, we have adapted the use of mask making in the specific context of examining PIF in medical education. Human beings are biologically conditioned to respond to faces. Masks, therefore, evolve from a longstanding and fundamental human need to explore meaning and belonging, navigate transitions and ensure survival. As such, the act of mask making represents both process (constructing the mask) and product (the mask itself). Mask-making, therefore, is a unique modality to foster reflective expression and professional growth.

Recent Comments
Guest — Dan Pratt

Masks or Poems

Mark gave a wonderful workshop in the Spring of 2021. He asked us to reflect on who is behind the professional mask we wear. It wa... Read More
Tuesday, 07 September 2021 9:09 PM
Guest — Mark Stephens

Thank you Dr. Pratt

Dan- Thank you so much for your very kind words. I have long admired your contributions to medical education and am so grateful t... Read More
Wednesday, 08 September 2021 1:01 AM
Continue reading
5599 Hits