Clinical Distinction

Your future, by you

The Hero’s Journey

This post describes the process of designing a specialty track and how it compares to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

The Journey of Creating a Specialty Project

A specialty project is like a good story. You are the writer of the story but you are also the hero. In any good story, the hero goes through predictable steps on their journey. ( I’m mixing genders in this metaphor so as not to give preference he/she/they/you…bear with me)

1. Ordinary World

This is you living in the very taxing world of tests and lectures, labs, practicals and then looking forward to rotations – actually working with patients. It’s what medical students do!

2. Call To Adventure

The hero’s adventure begins when he receives a call to action. Your call to action is to design a specialty project. For the first time in your entire medical training (and possibly the last) you are being asked to do something adventurous, something that you direct and create – Clinical Distinction Specialty Projects don’t have to be the ordinary world!

3. Refusal Of The Call

Although the hero may be eager to accept the quest, at this stage they will have fears that need overcoming, second thoughts, or even deep personal doubts as to whether or not they are up to the challenge. The quicker you get through this stage the better. You can rely on the course directors to cheer you on and alleviate your fears. Your course director assignment was emailed to you and can also be found in Canvas in the Clinical Distinction Course. Make sure you find out who your course director is and sign up for a session with them.

4. Meeting The Mentor

You have an important mentor in your adventure – the Clinical Distinction Course Director assigned to you! Make sure you know who that faculty member is and meet with them early – they will guide you through the adventure you create. However, for your specialty project in Clinical Distinction you have to find a second mentor – your project sponsor. Finding your sponsor is one of the challenges on your specialty track adventure. The faculty sponsor is the person who will help you with the coursework once you’ve decided what that work is. They will also grade you on your project. If you can find a faculty sponsor who is interested in your ideas you’ll be set for success on your MSPE. The best faculty sponsor will take the time to give you an authentic evaluation.

5. Crossing The Threshold

The Hero is now ready to act upon his call to adventure and truly begin his quest, whether it be creative, clinical , service focused or all of these. To finally cross the threshold between the world you are familiar with and this new independent learning, you need to fill out two forms: A rotation request form and a contract of learning. These two forms signify your commitment to the journey. In the first you’ll be letting the CED know what you are doing, when you are doing it and where you will be. In writing the contract you’ll be committing to a course of study and collaborating on it with your Faculty Sponsor.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

Now finally out of her comfort zone, the hero is confronted with a series of challenges that will test her in a variety of ways. Obstacles are thrown across her path; can she demonstrate her competency growth or entrustability? Will she have all the opportunities she committed to in her contract? What will she do if she can’t get as much done as she planned? What if her IRB is rejected? Will her sponsor have the time they committed to? Can she reach her goal in the time she has?

Remember, as you travel through these obstacles you have a sponsor and a course director that can help you!

7. Approach To The Inmost Cave

The inmost cave may represent many things in the hero’s story such as an actual location in which lies a terrible danger or an inner conflict which up until now the hero has not had to face. As the hero approaches the cave she must make final preparations before taking that final leap into the great unknown. In Clinical Distinction, the Inmost Cave is your final evaluation – as you complete your project you’ll be dreaming about your residency program, you’ll be reflecting on your successes and failures and you’ll be hopefully getting valuable learning feedback from your sponsor.

At the threshold to the inmost cave the hero may once again face some of the doubts and fears that first surfaced upon his call to adventure. He may need some time to reflect upon his journey in order to find the courage to continue. It’s a good idea to plan ahead for this period of reflection.

8. Ordeal

Completing your project, having an exit interview with your sponsor and writing your final Narrative Evaluation is your final hero’s ordeal. Some students submit products that demonstrate their achievement, or give lectures or conference presentations. Some students simply reflect on the journey and write the narrative evaluation of their competency growth – this, however is the final requirement.

9. Reward (Seizing The Sword)

After defeating the enemy, surviving death and finally overcoming your greatest personal challenge, you will ultimately be transformed into an intern! You’ll have the support of the Director of Enrollment Management and Student Success in transforming your narrative evaluation into a part of your MSPE or Dean’s Letter.  This transformation – from a journey to a letter that helps you get the residency of your dreams is your reward. Scroll through this sample MSPE so you can see how your journey appears in the blue box…..