Author Credentials

William J. Crump MD R. Steve Fricker MPA Allison M. Crump-Rogers MD

Author ORCID Identifier



professional identity, medical students, medical education, reflection


Educational Methods | Medical Education | Medicine and Health Sciences



Beginning medical students have a very early idea of what their physician identity will be. Providing a brief structured opportunity to reflect on the end of their career can be an important first step in identity formation.


A reflective exercise was used in the summer prior to beginning medical school as each class of students at a regional rural medical school began a summer prematriculation program from 2015-2019. Students wrote what they wished to be said about them at the end of their career using a “Career Eulogy.” Identifiers were removed and narratives were coded into recurring text clusters by the authors.


The students, on an anonymous evaluation, strongly agreed that the exercise facilitated the accomplishment of the program goals. Reflections from forty-two entering medical students indicated a preference to be remembered for compassion, passion, quality, and patient relationships. Men more frequently mentioned family and enjoying life, and women more frequently mentioned patient relationships. Rural students included quality and being a teacher of medical students more frequently, and those with a physician parent included passion and community more frequently. Those who later chose family medicine as a specialty more often included references to enjoying life and family.


This reflective exercise provided useful insight into early professional identity formation among these medical students and served to encourage group discussion. It could be used with larger, more diverse groups to determine its value and clarify true differences among the demographic and specialty choice patterns. This exercise could also be used annually for each student, providing a longitudinal view of identity formation.