Clinical Distinction

Your future, by you

Resources: Faculty Sponsor

One of your first and most important tasks in creating your project is finding a Faculty Sponsor. This person will work with you, evaluate you and ultimately influence your acceptance to a residency program.

The person should be a content expert in your chosen area of study – if that’s yoga, then a yoga instructor, if it’s cardiology, then a cardiologist.

But more importantly they should be able to evaluate your work because they are engaged with you, observing you and working with you.

Who’s Who in Clinical Distinction: Mentors, Course Directors, and Faculty Sponsors and More

Faculty Sponsor

This is the faculty who grades you. You should plan on collaborating with them on what your course entails, the outcomes, the criteria for passing and the activities as well as when it ends.

The faculty sponsor approves your contract through an online form which you complete first.

Engages with you during your course in whatever way you agree on

Reviews your self-evaluations and completes the online form in which they evaluate you.

Much of what they write about you will appear in your dean’s letter.

They will also evaluate your competency growth which may appear as a signature event.

Clinical Distinction Course Director

There are three course directors for Clinical Distinction. One of them is assigned to you.

Your course director is a guide to understanding how to be successful in Clinical Distinction.

You should meet with them at least once when you are in your second year and then again during your third year at least 90 days before each Clinical Distinction Course or until you have a plan for all your green blocks.

Academic Mentor

Your academic mentor is the advisor assigned to you when you first arrived at TUCOM. Hopefully, you’ve met with them multiple times throughout your first and second years and will continue to rely on them for advice and support as you continue through your training. With the exception of your Board Study CD course, or if they have been assigned as your CD Course Director, this faculty member probably won’t be working with you during Clinical Distinction

The Right Faculty Sponsor

Students often default to asking someone they are comfortable talking to such as faculty from their first two years of training. Sometimes that’s a reasonable choice, but more often it is the easy way out and doesn’t result in the best MSPE. Read below to find out who to select and how to get their support.

The best choice for a faculty sponsor is the preceptor, clinician, principal investigator, or specialist that will observe your work during the specialty project. Any true entrustment decision depends on actual workplace assessment. If a student will be doing any clinical activities or research, the preceptor or principal investigator is the right choice for sponsor.

I get this asked about this so often I’m going to repeat myself: The faculty sponsor does not need to be a physician and they don’t need to be core TUCOM faculty. Credentials matter for paperwork – so if you are unsure about the credentials of someone you would like to select for your faculty sponsor, contact your CD Course Director to discuss it.

If your project isn’t clinical, then the best person to sponsor you is a content expert in your non-clinical activity. If the best person isn’t a physician, simply reach out to your personal Course Director for a little guidance on how to make this work. If you want an authentic evaluation you need an authentic sponsor.

TUCOM faculty in general, Academic mentors, and CD course directors specifically, can sponsor you, however, they tend to be inadequate to truly evaluate your project. You might pass the course, but you’ll be missing an opportunity to really shine in your residency application. So, don’t lean on these faculty just because they are easy to get a hold of or already understands Clinical Distinction.

Students are most successful in their MSPE excerpts and evaluations when their selected faculty is involved in their project and can assess the work effectively. An appropriate time to ask TUCOM faculty to sponsor you is when you will be working directly with them, for example, Dr. Nuno has worked with several students to develop projects in integrative medicine. Dr. Shubrook has sponsored students who have worked on research projects in Diabetes with him. But no faculty is required to sponsor your project! Make sure you have a good pitch before you ask someone to work with you.

It’s almost never a good idea to have your CD Course Director, or Academic Mentor, also be your Faculty Sponsor. Again, if they are the content expert or are as passionate about your subject as you are then that’s the exception.


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Your Clinical Distinction Course Director may agree to be your back up sponsor if your rotation request form is due and you don’t yet have a sponsor. Certain requirements must be met: Learn more here.

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Be prepared when you meet with your sponsor. Read this blog about what you should know when you ask them to sponsor you.

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You can download this preceptor letter and edit it, use it as the basis for an email or learn the language for a conversation with a potential sponsor.

More Information

Choosing a sponsor is a key step in designing your course.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure of how to ask a preceptor to sponsor you. There are resources to make the process easier.

This is a great topic of conversation to have with your CD course director.

We have heard from residency directors that they value the opinion of faculty who are not within the TUCOM system because they have a greater likelihood of being objective. While this is obviously not always true, it is something to keep in mind when selecting your faculty sponsor for clinical distinction. If your evaluation is completed by someone who doesn’t see you do any work during your project, what can they say about you? “She did what she said she would do.” That’s it – they can’t verify growth, development, or entrustment – key features of an effective MSPE evaluation.