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What We Learn From Teaching

July 21, 2022

I was recently challenged to develop a personal mission statement by a mentor for a faculty development program.1 The process of developing this mission statement pushed me to identify my core values and reflect on how the various transitions I have experienced in my career align with my career goals. What do I hope to accomplish during my career? What gives me meaning and fulfillment? As I reflected on my professional identity, I realized that seeking opportunities to foster the development of other individuals has been a common thread woven throughout my professional development and career decisions. 

During my pre-medical training, I began understanding the power of teachers who carry a genuine, vested interest in the personal and professional development of their students.  I benefitted from teachers who challenged me to reach outside my comfort zones and explore interests, while fully equipping me with the permission to make mistakes. Fast forward to residency and fellowship training, I found myself with a strong desire to do the same for others through teaching and providing guidance in classroom and clinical settings. However, it was not until after fellowship that I began to realize that I could turn my interests in education into a full career.

Serendipity was a huge factor, as it often presents in situations that ultimately lead to important opportunities that shape who we are today. After a conversation with my then future division chief during an interview for a faculty position, I made a conscious decision to explore a career in health professions education. What strikes me now is that while my earlier experiences were important in broadening my perspective of education, if I had additional guidance, structure, and tools to support my interests in teaching as a resident and fellow, I may have made the choice to explore a career in health professions education earlier.

This month’s Perspective, that I am an author on, by Caruso et al, “Fellows as Teachers: Supporting Future Educators”, underscores the importance of helping fellows deepen their skills as teachers during their fellowship training (10.1542/neo.23-7-e438). The reasons are many, including goals to improve one’s knowledge, to enrich others’ comprehension and practice of clinical care, and to help our patient’s families become better advocates for their children’s health. Introducing the core skills of teaching during graduate medical training provides fellows with powerful tools to achieve the skills necessary to become an effective clinician.

However, the value of teaching extends beyond these goals to foster the 4 C’s in education—creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking—to ultimately help individuals build a community of practice.2,3 Within this community, teaching can help fellows find meaning in their work to ultimately help build resilience in oneself and in others. Certainly, in my own career, teaching has been one way I have found joy in a profession that can be emotionally and physically demanding. I believe that providing fellows with guidance and opportunities to explore their own professional development through teaching is a gift that will help them find fulfillment in their own work…and, might I add that for some fellows, teaching may lead to a career in education that supports the development of future clinicians!


  1. Li ST, Frohna JG, Bostwick SB. Using your personal mission statement to INSPIRE and achieve success. Acad Pediatr. 2017;17(2):107-9
  2. Eli Zimmerman. The 4 C’s of learning in a connected classroom. EdTech July 27, 2018. Accessed on June 30, 2022 at:
  3. Cruess RL, Cruess SR, Steinert Y. Medicine as a community of practice: implications for medical education. Acad Med. 2018;93(2):185-91
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