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Rock Stars in Academic Medicine

Lucey, Catherine R. MD; Sedmak, Daniel MD; Notestine, Mark PhD; Souba, Wiley MD, ScD, MBA

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181e5c0bb
Leadership Issues in Academic Medicine

Purpose: To investigate the prevalence and characteristics of faculty rock stars, a subset of academic health center faculty who greatly enhance the reputation and/or success of their home institution, oftentimes at the expense of a disproportionate share of institutional resources.

Method: In 2008, the authors surveyed the deans of 126 U.S. medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education, using a 13-item instrument consisting of Likert scales, pick lists, and open-ended questions.

Results: Sixty-four (51%) surveyed deans responded. Respondents were more representative of public than private institutions (P < .001) but were proportionately representative of institutions of varying faculty size, U.S. New & World Report research rankings, and geographic location. The prevalence of rock stars was 1.42% (range 0.07%-6.42%) of full-time faculty. Over 74% (46/62) of deans felt that these talented faculty contributed to institutional prominence. Most deans were usually willing to offer greater resources to recruit or retain these faculty stars, and 39/62 (63%) believed that these individuals were a good investment. Although 53/64 (82.8%) of deans believed that other faculty are often or almost always aware that these individuals receive preferential treatment, only 37/64 (57.8%) believed that other faculty agree with that treatment. Fifty percent or more of deans (depending on the characteristic) selected self-promotion, a strong work ethic, opportunism, charisma, and political savvy as characteristics that were more common in rock stars.

Conclusions: Deans appreciated both the value and the leadership challenges associated with the academic medical center rock star.

Dr. Lucey is vice dean for education and associate vice president for health sciences, College of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

Dr. Sedmak is executive vice dean, College of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio.

Dr. Notestine is chief of staff, College of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

Dr. Souba is vice president/executive dean for the health sciences and dean, College of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Lucey, Ohio State University College of Medicine, 260 Meiling Hall, 370 W. Ninth Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210; telephone: (614) 688-3104; e-mail:

© 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges