Qualities of the Medical School Dean: Insights From the Literature

Rich, Eugene C. MD; Magrane, Diane MD; Kirch, Darrell G. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31816becc9

Purpose: To review the literature and resources for professional development of medical school executives in order to identify the characteristics proposed as relevant to medical school deanship.

Method: In 2006, the authors conducted a PubMed search using the key words leadership, dean, medical school, and academic medical center to identify relevant publications since 1995. Articles were excluded that that did not address the roles and responsibilities of the North American medical school dean. Articles gleaned through review of materials from relevant executive development programs and interviews with leaders involved in these programs were added.

Results: Both management skills (e.g., institutional assessment, strategic planning, financial stewardship, recruitment and retention of talent) and leadership skills (e.g., visioning, maximizing values, building constituency) are commonly cited as important deans of contemporary medical schools. Key content knowledge (e.g., academic medical center governance, expectations of clinicians and scientists, process of medical education) and certain attitudes (e.g., commitment to the success of others, appreciation of institutional culture) are also noted to be valuable qualities for medical school deans.

Conclusions: The literature review identifies a number of areas of knowledge and skill consistently affirmed by scholars as important to success for medical school deans. These characteristics can provide a basic foundation for needs assessment and professional development activities of academic medical executives preparing for and entering medical school deanships, and they can also provide insight to those charged with selecting their next dean.

Dr. Rich is Tenet Endowed Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska.

Dr. Magrane is associate vice president, Faculty Development and Leadership Programs, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Dr. Kirch is president and CEO, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Rich, 4411 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone: (402) 981-3615; e-mail: (richec@creighton.edu).

© 2008 Association of American Medical Colleges