Exploring professional identification and reputation of family medicine among medical students: a Canadian case study

Educ Prim Care. 2012 May;23(3):158-68. doi: 10.1080/14739879.2012.11494099.


We aim to shed light on medical students' professional identification with family medicine by means of a qualitative case study examining the reputation of, and professional identification processes with, family medicine among students enrolled in a Canadian medical school, where a consistently low number of students choose family medicine as first choice for postgraduate training. Six focus groups, three for second year students and three for fourth year students, were conducted in 2007 and 2008. Transcripts from group discussions were submitted to a thematic analysis, while documentary sources supported contextualisation. All the students participating in the investigation had a clear idea about the traditional role of general practitioners (GPs). Those students who seemed to better identify with a family medicine career path were characterised by feeling comfortable with the broad scope of general medical knowledge, and with requesting a second opinion, by valuing the possibility of a diversified profile of practice, and holding strong humanistic values, as well as by being more concerned about lifestyle issues. This was observed despite an academic context that strongly encouraged medical specialisation, as students unanimously pointed out. In such circumstances, identification with family medicine by undecided medical students was hampered. In order to embed family medicine in the academic discourse of excellence, and therefore encourage students' identification with this profession, more attention should be paid to family physicians' identity formation in academic centres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Canada
  • Career Choice*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Identification, Psychological*
  • Knowledge
  • Qualitative Research
  • Specialization
  • Students, Medical / psychology*