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The Activities and Responsibilities of the Vice Chair for Education in U.S. and Canadian Departments of Medicine

Brownfield, Erica MD; Clyburn, Benjamin MD; Santen, Sally MD, PhD; Heudebert, Gustavo MD; Hemmer, Paul A. MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31825cf71a
Faculty Issues

Purpose: A profile of the activities and responsibilities of vice chairs for education is notably absent from the medical education literature. The authors sought to determine the demographics, roles and responsibilities, and major priorities and challenges faced by vice chairs for education.

Method: In 2010, the authors sent a confidential, Web-based survey to all 82 identified department of medicine vice chairs for education in the United States and Canada. The authors inquired about demographics, roles, expectations of and for their position, opinions on the responsibilities outlined for their position, metrics used to evaluate their success, top priorities, and job descriptions. Analysis included creating descriptive statistics and categorizing the qualitative comments.

Results: Fifty-nine vice chairs for education (72%) responded. At the time of appointment, only 6 (10%) were given a job description, and only 17 (28%) had a defined job description and metrics used to evaluate their success. Only 20 (33%) had any formal budget management training, and 23 (38%) controlled an education budget. Five themes emerged regarding the responsibilities and goals of the vice chair for education: oversee educational programs; possess educational expertise; promote educational scholarship; serve in leadership activities; and, disturbingly, respondents found expectations to be vague and ill defined.

Conclusions: Vice chairs for education are departmental leaders. The authors’ findings and recommendations can serve as a beginning for defining educational directions and resources, building consensus, and designing an appropriate educational infrastructure for departments of medicine.

Dr. Brownfield is associate professor of medicine and vice chair for education, Department of Medicine, and assistant dean of medical education, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Clyburn is associate professor of medicine, residency program director, and vice chair for education, Department of Medicine, and associate dean for graduate medical education, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina.

Dr. Santen is clinical associate professor of emergency medicine and assistant dean for educational research and quality improvement, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dr. Heudebert is professor of medicine and public health, residency program director, and vice chair for education, Department of Medicine, and assistant dean for graduate medical education, University of Alabama, Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.

Dr. Hemmer is professor of medicine and vice chair for educational programs, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Brownfield, 1648 Pierce Dr. NE, Suite P398, Atlanta, GA 30322; telephone: (404) 727-3400; fax: (404) 727-0045; e-mail:

Editor’s Note: A commentary by L. Pangaro appears on page 999.

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges