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It’s Academic: Public Policy Activities Among Faculty Members in a Department of Medicine

Jacobs, Douglas B.; Greene, Meredith MD; Bindman, Andrew B. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182a37329
Innovation Reports

Problem: To investigate whether and how faculty members in a department of medicine are engaged in public policy activities.

Approach: Between February and April 2011, the authors conducted a cross-sectional, Web-based survey of all active Department of Medicine faculty members at the University of California, San Francisco. Survey questions covered demographics, academic role, academic rank, and participation in three specific public policy activities during the past five years: (1) policy-related research, (2) expert advice to government officials, and (3) public policy advocacy in collaboration with organizations outside government.

Outcomes: Two hundred twenty of 553 faculty (40%) responded to the survey. One hundred twenty-four faculty members (56% of respondents and 22% of total active faculty) reported that they were engaged in at least one of the three types of policy-related activities: 51 (23%) conducted policy-related research, 67 (30%) provided expert advice to government officials, and 93 (42%) collaborated with organizations to advocate for public policy. Higher faculty rank was significantly associated with faculty members reporting that they were involved in one or more of the three policy activities (P = .04).

Next Steps: Academic departments should identify public policy expertise among their faculty and leverage this expertise by facilitating opportunities to develop a shared faculty awareness of their public policy activities, by supporting the establishment of mentoring relationships for less experienced faculty in the area of public policy, and by incorporating standards of excellence for work in public policy into the promotions process.

Mr. Jacobs is a third-year medical student, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

Dr. Greene is a fellow in medicine–geriatrics, UCSF, San Francisco, California.

Dr. Bindman is professor of medicine, health policy, epidemiology, and biostatistics, UCSF, San Francisco, California.

Acknowledgments: The authors wish to thank Professors Steve Morin and Jim Kahn at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), for their contributions in designing the survey; Dr. Talmadge King Jr. and Ms. Bonnie Johnson for facilitating the completion of the survey questionnaire among faculty members in UCSF’s Department of Medicine; and Mr. Richard Wang for his assistance in creating the Web-based survey tool.

Funding/Support: None.

Other disclosures: None.

Ethical approval: Because the information was gathered for administrative purposes as part of a strategic planning process, the protocol was considered exempt from review by the institutional review board.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Bindman, PRL-Institute for Health Policy Studies, 3333 California St., Suite 265, San Francisco, CA 94118; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges