About me

I am a professor of medicine, member of the UCSF Academy of Medical Educators and Center for Faculty Educators, and the former vice dean for education at UCSF.  The three cornerstones of my work have been to advance understanding of clinical teaching, share best practices through faculty development and publications, and continuously improve medical curricula. Notably, I was a senior scholar at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, where I co-directed a national study on the professional preparation of physicians that culminated in the 2010 publication: Educating Physicians: A Call for Reform of Medical School and Residency. Prior to joining UCSF in 1997, I was a professor of medical education at the University of Washington. 

Research description

Over the past four decades, I have focused my research on clinical teaching in medicine, medical education reforms and faculty development. My research began in the 1970s by identifying the behaviors of best and worst clinical teachers in medicine.  This research led to the development and validation of clinical teacher assessment forms.  In the 1990s, I examined the knowledge-base of clinical teachers, their instructional reasoning processes surrounding case presentations and the ways in which they organized their teaching rounds to make them exciting learning experiences.

From 2004-2009, I was a Senior Scholar and Co-Director of the Preparation for the Professions Project in Medicine, a five-year national study of medical education conducted by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  This resulted in the publication of Educating Physicians: A Call for Reform of Medical School and Residency (2010), which describes the current status of undergraduate and graduate medical education, synthesizes the literature from the learning sciences and medical education research, offers a vision for the future and recommendations for program and policy improvement.

I have used the insights derived from this research to inform faculty development. To advance the field, I have published a dozen articles on faculty development that offer theoretical models, empirical evidence and practical guidelines for conducting and evaluating programs.

In a recent article on research in medical education (Rotgans JI. The Themes, Institutions, and People of Medical Education Research 1988-2010: Content Analysis of Abstracts from Six Journals. Adv in Health Sci Educ. 2012; 17:515-527.), I was ranked number five in the list of the 10 most cited researchers in medical education from 1988-2010, and number one in the U.S.

I am currently examining faculty development, establishing international standards for assessing excellence in faculty development through the Association for Medical Education in Europe ASPIRE to Excellence award program (which I chair), and exploring identity formation of faculty developers. With my doctoral students, I am examining cognitive load theory, clinical reasoning and shared mental models in inter professional teams.


I received a Bachelors Degree in History and Religion from Graceland University, a Masters of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, a doctorate in education from the University of Washington, and a postdoctoral fellowship in academic administration from Harvard Medical School. 

Academic honours, awards and prizes

Over his 45 years of work in medical education, I have received numerous awards and recognition as a leader in medical education, including awards from the Karolinska Institutet, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Educational Research Association and the National Board of Medical Examiners among others.