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2012 Abraham Flexner Distinguished Service to Medical Education

Ruth-Marie (Rhee) E. Fincher, M.D., Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University


Over three decades, Ruth-Marie (Rhee) E. Fincher, M.D., has worked to link medical education to the rigor of science, one of Flexner’s most important tenets.

“Through her dedication and persistent efforts, undergraduate medical education is now a legitimate career choice for faculty with a passion for teaching medical students, and educational scholarship has been redefined and recognized across the nation,” says Peter F. Buckley, M.D., dean of the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Georgia Health Sciences University. Dr. Fincher is professor emeritus and former vice dean for academic affairs at MCG.  

Early in her career as MCG’s internal medicine clerkship director, Dr. Fincher identified a need for a nationally recognized career development track for faculty to focus on medical education. To this end, she co-founded two organizations to promote excellence in clinical education: Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine (CDIM) and the Alliance for Clinical Education (ACE). At CDIM, Dr. Fincher started and ran for 20 years a training program for faculty new to the clerkship role. At ACE, which fosters collaboration among clerkship directors across specialties, Dr. Fincher led the organization’s production of two landmark reports that have proved invaluable in helping medical educators understand the role and value of clerkship directors. “There has been no single figure in American medical education who has done more to define and nurture the roles of the clerkship director as an essential leader in student education,” says Louis N. Pangaro, M.D., past president of both CDIM and ACE.

In a volunteer engagement that has lasted a quarter of a century, Dr. Fincher began as an author and reviewer of test questions for assessing medical students’ clinical skills through the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and ultimately was named to the NBME executive board. “The changes in the examination programs during her leadership that support the medical education and licensure communities have had enormous effects on medical education and the expectations of competencies for doctors entering practice,” says Donald E. Melnick, M.D., NBME president.

In addition to paving the way for medical education scholarship at the national level, Dr. Fincher has made education a viable career niche at MCG. Dr. Fincher led the creation and implementation of an Educator’s Portfolio, which aids in the training and promotion process for faculty educators, as well as the Educational Innovation Institute, which develops and disseminates best practices and supports collaborative research in medical education.

No stranger to the AAMC, Dr. Fincher has served the association in many capacities. She chaired the AAMC Group on Educational Affairs (GEA) from 1997 to 1998, and she has been highly engaged with the group for 20 years. “Dr. Fincher brought the concept of scholarship to educating medical students, and infused it with rigor and never let the topic slip from the agenda of the GEA,” says M. Brownell Anderson, senior academic officer of international programs at NBME and former GEA program leader. Dr. Fincher has served as a valued member of the AAMC Board of Directors since 2011 and has participated in 12 accreditation site visits for the Liaison Committee on Medical Education over the past decade. 

Dr. Fincher received her B.A. degree from Colby College, her B.M.S. degree from Dartmouth Medical School, and her M.D. degree from Emory University School of Medicine.

Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education

The Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education was established by the AAMC in 1958 to recognize extraordinary individual contributions to medical schools and to the medical education community as a whole.