Imperial Connection: Leading the way in medical education research

By Dr Sam Gallivan, Deputy Academic Lead (Collaborative Partnerships)

In November 2021, we were delighted to welcome Professor Jennifer Cleland to visit Imperial College to see some of the new developments at the Imperial College School of Medicine and to spend time in collaboration and conversation with colleagues across the School.

One of the highlights of her visit was an event hosted by the Collaborative Partnerships Office entitled ‘Leading the way in Medical Education Research: A conversation with Professor Jennifer Cleland and Professor Amir Sam’ in which our two heads of school described the paths that have led to their success. We were thrilled to see a diverse audience representing all grades of medical educators from senior Professors of Education to junior doctors just starting out on their teaching and clinical careers.

Reflecting the thoughtful, relaxed atmosphere of the event, Prof Sam invited Prof Cleland to share the story of how she started out on her career with the audience. Prof Cleland described her path from undergraduate studies to how she established a career as a medical education research leader. She generously noted the contributions to her career made through collaboration and reflected on the efforts she has made to build and sustain a community of researchers around the world.

Prof Cleland went on to share some of the variety of her research including pioneering work in the analysis of selection of students for medical school, widening participation in medicine, and exploring the socio-cultural influences acting on simulation-based learning in surgery.

In the second half of the event, the conversation turned towards innovation and new horizons in medical education. Prof Sam shared his experiences of developing and introducing new assessment tools, such as the Very Short Answer Question (VSAQ) format and he spoke with clarity about the need to evaluate educational innovations, especially when these are revolutionary or challenge prevailing academic thought. Both Prof Cleland and Prof Sam were thoughtful and candid in answering questions from the audience that ranged from the practicalities of building an academic unit to some of the latest research in medical education.

Although Prof Sam and Prof Cleland come from different academic backgrounds there were clear themes that united both speakers: their passion to build a community for excellence in medical education research and a focus on delivering the best learning experience possible for our students. We look forward to building on some of these themes of collaboration and innovation in our jointly hosted Transform MedEd Conference in London in November 2022. 

For more information on Transform MedEd 2022, visit