Professional Identity & Balance

Know and Grow

Making the transition from student to physician.

Jogger gazes at the Huron River on a fall day

Physicians have unique moral obligations in caring for their patients, including acquiring skills to promote lifelong well-being and health in their patients and themselves. At Michigan, you’ll explore the meaning of balance within your professional and personal lives.

Three I’s of Professional Identity & Balance:

  1. Integrate with patients
  2. Interact interprofessionally
  3. Introspection on your developing role

We want to help students explore what it means to be a doctor. Wellness is an integral part of developing yourself as a professional. You have to be healthy physically and mentally to be able to provide care for patients. We help you develop skills aimed at finding the time and ability to do those things in a busy schedule.

Heather Lee Burrows, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Pediatrics; and Professional Identity & Balance Director

Professional Identity

As part of your Doctoring Course, you will discuss a variety of professional identity topics. Conversations center on your responsibility in the world inside and outside of your clinical experience to be an advocate for patients and families in health care. Topics focus on key themes such as ethics, humanism, compassion, health disparities, leadership, communication and interprofessional skills.

M3 and M4 med students deliver some of the professionalism curriculum for M1 and M2 med students. These near-peer counselors can tap into issues that come up in the clinical environment and provide relevant guidance on how to navigate tricky issues. Their experience helps to increase understanding and comfort levels for the newer students.

Your faculty coaches model appropriate behavior and help students stay on track with their goals. During all four years, you will refresh and revisit skills as you become more immersed in the clinical world.


You need to develop skills for managing stress just as you develop skills with the stethoscope. Both are important for lifelong success as a doctor. A range of opportunities gives you a chance to reflect, unwind and develop your personal interests. A few examples include:

  • Book clubs
  • Interest group meetings
  • M-Home Olympics and other fun house competitions
  • Developing and tracking well-being goals
  • Arts and humanities opportunities

Student Involvement

You will be involved in developing and assessing all parts of the curriculum, including Professional Identity & Balance. Students from all levels, faculty, class counselors and administrators continually come together to find best practices and processes.