Purpose: To explore the types of exemplary professional behaviors and the facilitators and barriers to professional behavior discussed by student–mentor dyads during appreciative inquiry (AI) dialogs. Materials and methods: We conducted a qualitative analysis of AI narratives discussing exemplary professional practice written by third-year medical students following a dialog with mentors. Narratives were thematically analyzed using directed content analysis to explore the types of exemplary professional behaviors discussed and the facilitators and barriers to professional practice. Narratives were coded independently by two investigators; codes were finalized, themes were derived, and a model on how exemplary professional behaviors are nurtured and reinforced was developed. Results: Themes addressed humanism toward others and excellence, with altruism being an underlying implicit guiding principle behind professional behavior. Humanism toward self was infrequently discussed as an aspect of professionalism, but when discussed, was perceived to foster resilience. Principle-based attitudes and emotional intelligence facilitated professional behaviors. Programmatic scaffolds facilitated professional behavior and included curricula on reflective practice, mentorship, promoting learner autonomy and connectedness, and a safe environment. Conclusions: AI is an effective strategy that can be used to stimulate learner reflection on professionalism, humanism, and wellness and promote learner acknowledgement of positive aspects of the learning environment.
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