Developing Academic Leadership from a Distance: A Health Professions Education Practicum Course

Anita Samuel*, Steven J. Durning, Kelsey L. Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Problem Leadership skills are fundamental to the successful practice of health professions education (HPE), but HPE degree programs struggle with providing meaningful leadership instruction from a distance. Approach The leaders of the HPE program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences developed a practicum course to give learners guided experiences in their daily leadership roles and responsibilities from a distance. The ongoing practicum course, started in fall 2018 and broadly framed by the principles of deliberate practice and self-directed learning, involves a 6-step process where learners: (1) identify leadership competency/ies to develop, (2) identify roles and responsibilities in their own work settings that involve elements of leadership, (3) develop a learning agreement that identifies personal leadership goals for the practicum activity, (4) are assigned expert preceptors by practicum directors, (5) initiate regular meetings with their preceptors to receive feedback and expert advice, and (6) end the practicum activity with a debriefing reflection between themselves and their preceptors. Practicum activity timelines are flexible and preceptors work with learners through the lifespan of the project. Learners can participate in multiple practicum activities as they improve different leadership competencies. Outcomes Since fall 2018, 36 learners have participated in 83 practicum activities, 45 (54%) of which have been completed. The practicum activities show that leadership competencies are most often embedded within other activities and are unique to every situation. Reflecting on practice, collaborating in teams, and negotiating and resolving conflict are the most commonly identified leadership competencies learners want to improve. Feedback on the practicum from learners has been positive. Next Steps This practicum course provides a model that can be applied in various organizational contexts. In the future, the authors plan to collect data from both learners and preceptors about their experiences and solicit feedback from learners' employers and supervisors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)854-858
Number of pages5
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


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