Intended for healthcare professionals


Medical education’s authenticity problem

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 09 April 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2651
  1. Brian W Powers, MD candidate1,
  2. Amol S Navathe, clinical fellow in medicine1,
  3. Sachin H Jain, lecturer, health care policy1
  1. 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  1. shjain{at}

Why we do what we do, and who we are, are often just as important as what we do

Medical education is punctuated by gating mechanisms, and anyone involved knows the unsavoury and contrived behaviors that this often breeds. At each stage of their training, aspiring physicians are pressured to shape and reshape their activities, interests, and values to meet the expectations of selection committees, attending physicians, and preceptors.

The notion of authenticity provides a useful framework for examining the impact of these dynamics on the development of new physicians. The term, popularized by Harvard Business School professor Bill George, entails discovering, understanding, and being faithful to your core values and purpose. Instead of emulating the characteristics, traits, or practices of others, authentic individuals interrogate their life experiences to discover their values and purpose through a process of continuous self reflection.1

Current dynamics in medical education are often at odds with authenticity. Selection requirements for undergraduate and graduate medical training lead aspiring physicians to appropriate and proclaim interests that are often disingenuous. Junior doctors hoping for selection into competitive training programs are pressured to research and publish, despite the …

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