A comparison of professional identity experiences among minoritized medical professionals

T. R. Wyatt, N. Rockich-Winston*, S. Crandall, R. Wooten, C. Gillette

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Professional identity formation (PIF) is considered a fundamental process in the development of healthcare providers. In medical education, the PIF literature has historically centered on medicine's socialization practices involving white male physicians. However, recently researchers have begun to reveal how larger socio-historical contexts influence PIF in minoritized physicians. To better understand what influences Black/African American physicians’ PIF, this study compares their PIF experiences to a group of minoritized physician assistants (PAs). In comparing Black physicians’ experiences to another provider, this study explored what PIF experiences may be attributed to participants’ minoritized status and what might be attributed to the culture of medicine. Methods: In this cross-case analysis, 45 minoritized PA students and practicing PAs were recruited from several Southeastern universities. The PA participants included 23 Black/African Americans, 12 Latinx, 4 Indigenous/Native, and 6 of mixed races/ethnicities. Interview data were then compared to previously collected data from 41 Black/African American medical trainees and physicians. Using constant comparative method, similarities and differences in PIF were explored. Results: Similarities between the two groups included the importance of participants’ racial/ethnic identity to patient care, experiences on-going microaggressions from patients and peers, and a desire to engage in racial uplift. However, one marked difference was found, namely that PAs felt they could bring their entire selves to the profession, whereas physicians described feeling splintered early in their training. Conclusions: Several possibilities that might explain why Black physicians and minoritized PAs have this one marked difference in their PIF experience, including identity threat, internalization of different discourses, and length of training for physicians. While this study was not designed to answer this question, it is clear that there is something in the culture of medicine and the training of physicians that signals to Black physicians that they cannot bring their whole selves to the profession.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-464
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the National Medical Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Health professions education
  • Physician
  • Physician assistant
  • Professional identity formation
  • Qualitative research


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