What does it mean to be a physician? Exploring social imaginaries of first-year medical students

Rachel Vaizer, Sanah Aslam, William G. Pearson, Nicole Rockich-Winston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To explore if community embedded discussions with local community members reshape the social imaginary of medicine among students and contribute positively to their professional identity. Methods: This explorative, qualitative study involved 35 first-year medical students who volunteered to attend a 2-hour forum at a local church to ask community members about their experiences with doctors and healthcare systems.  Student participants were asked to reflect on five structured questions. The written reflections were submitted for analysis, de-identified, and analyzed using Glaser's classic grounded theory, constant comparative analysis, and Taylor's model of modern social imaginaries as an analytical lens. Results: The results indicate that student participants identified seven main themes regarding what community members expect from their doctors, including active listening (n=22), physical touch (n=18), and compassion (n=16). Responses also indicated that only 5.6% of the students felt that the preclinical curriculum was adequately preparing them for what local community members identified as important to patient care. However, students recognized that two aspects of the curriculum, Physical Diagnosis (n=12) and volunteering/community engagement (n=9), were congruent with the expectations of future patients. Conclusions: The results suggest that students identified educational experiences that were congruent with the social imaginary of patients. However, patient expectations were discordant to some aspects of the medical imaginary of medical students. The experience and subsequent reflections may be salient to contributing to each student's professional identity and provide a model for other medical schools to explore how the curriculum is fulfilling the community's perception of ideal patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-80
Number of pages5
JournalInternational journal of medical education
StatePublished - Mar 27 2020


  • medically underserved community
  • patient-physician relationship
  • professional identity
  • social contract
  • social imaginary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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