Clinician Educator AFC links scholarship to practice
Unique time-variable CBME program bridges the gap between academia and the clinical environment, while also bringing formal recognition to this critical MedEd role.
When the Royal College’s Clinician Educator (CE) area of focused competence (AFC) first made an appearance in 2012, it was swiftly recognized as an important bridge between academia and the clinical environment.
“Physicians who complete this diploma emerge as education engineers rather than education scientists,” says Dr. Teresa Chan. “The CE AFC is the practical, on-the-ground program that all of us really want and that’s different from what grad schools offer.”
Dr. Chan is the AFC director at McMaster University’s accredited clinician educator training program and chair of the Royal College Clinician Educator AFC Committee, among her many other roles. She is passionate about the value of the CE AFC to Canada’s medical education community.
“In the CE AFC, it’s mandatory to take on the practical work of designing curriculum, making assessment tools and adapting them to your local context,” she says. “For someone like a program director or assistant program director, who is already doing the work of a CE, the diploma layers on top of your experience. And you do it with a community of support, which helps you synthesize.”
The CE AFC is a time-variable competency-based medical education (CBME) program that Dr. Chan says usually takes no more than three years to complete. It is designed to allow candidates to progress at their own pace while they juggle clinical, academic and personal responsibilities. Graduates of the program earn the title DRCPSC, CE – Diplomate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Clinician Educator.
“This particular diploma is a great example of why AFCs exist,” says Dr. Jason Frank, director, Specialty Education, Strategy and Standards at the Royal College. “The Clinician Educator diploma from the College signals an advanced level of competence and these graduates are a huge value-add to academic departments.”
Dr. Linda Snell is professor of Medicine and Health Sciences Education at McGill University, Senior CE at the Royal College and co-founder of this AFC. She says the CE AFC is a key to acknowledging and formalizing the critical contributions CEs make to medical education in Canada.
“Until this AFC, not only were Clinician Educators not able to get appropriate training – they weren’t even formally recognized,” says Dr. Snell. She agrees with Dr. Chan that the CE AFC enables clinicians to contextualize their scholarly knowledge about education. “How do we know what actually works? Is there a better way to assess people? Is there a better way of teaching? The CE may be the person who can innovate on these issues because they’re educated and aware on both sides.”
Dr. Chan says the CE AFC is also valuable for demonstrating the rigors of CBME to faculty who have not experienced it as trainees. “The only way to understand CBME is to have lived it. This AFC, which is competency based and time variable, gives faculty members that deep empathy for how hard CBME can be on the trainees. Those struggles are real.”
For physicians already practicing in the discipline, the AFC credential and designation can also be attained through the new, reformed practice eligibility route (PER-AFC).