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Geographic Mobility Advances Careers: Study of the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women

McLean, Marsha R. EdD; Morahan, Page S. PhD; Dannels, Sharon A. PhD; McDade, Sharon A. EdD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182a7f60e
Research Reports

Purpose To explore whether geographic mobility is associated with career advancement of women in U.S. medical schools who are entering mid- to executive-level positions.

Method Using an existing dataset of 351 participants in academic medicine who attended the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women (1996–2005) (adjusted to 345 participants in some analyses because data on initial faculty rank were missing), the authors conducted a quantitative study in 2009 to determine whether geographic mobility was associated with administrative promotion for those who relocated geographically (from employer while attending ELAM to employer at last job of record).

Results Twenty-four percent of women (83/345) relocated geographically (movers) after attending ELAM. Moving had a positive association with career advancement (P = .001); odds for promotion were 168% higher for movers than for stayers [odds ratio Exp) = 2.684]. Movers attained higher administrative positions (P = .003), and more movers (60%) were promoted at the most recent job compared with stayers (40%) (P = .0001). Few movers changed city size; 70% already resided in large or urban cities where most medical schools are located. Age was not a barrier to mobility. Career advancement was not related to research reputation (National Institutes of Health grant award ranking) of participants’ schools (either at time of attending ELAM or post-ELAM).

Conclusions Similar to findings outside academic medicine, 24% of women classified as geographic “movers” among midcareer faculty in medical schools attained career advantages. Psychosocial and socioeconomic factors underlying women’s relocation decisions require additional study.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

Dr. McLean is assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Dr. Morahan is founding director, Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Dannels is chair, Department of Educational Leadership, and associate professor, Educational Research, George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Dr. McDade is former associate professor of Higher Education, George Washington University; and former director (retired), Emerging Leaders Group/ACE Fellows Group, American Council on Education, Washington, DC.

Funding/support: None.

Ethical approval: ELAM data were used with permission, and the George Washington University’s human subjects review board approved the project (#060724, 11/25/2008).

Other disclosures: None.

Previous presentations: Paper presented at the American Education Research Association (AERA) Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, April 2012.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. McLean, 1200 Murchison Rd., Fayetteville, NC 28301; telephone: (910) 672-2217; fax: (910) 672-1485; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges