Sunday, August 24, 2014
On role modeling
In a really interesting read in the journal Academic Medicine Dr. Jochanan Benbassat explains that role modeling, though vaguely defined and part of the “hidden curriculum,” is a powerful factor in medical education. We are well aware of its good aspects; we seek to emulate the traits of mentors we admire. But there are unintended consequences, says the author. The responses to role modeling are largely subconscious, somewhat emotionally driven, uncritical and even primitive. There are potential dangers. My own take is that the student's response to the role model involves the psychological defense mechanisms of identification and introjection. Early in the process of finding out who they are and what they are becoming as clinicians, students are uniquely susceptible. (These psychological mechanisms were explored with fascinating insight and great comical effect in Woody Allen's movie Zelig). The article explores ways students can mitigate the harmful effects through self reflection and critical thinking.