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Understanding the Needs and Concerns of Senior Faculty in Academic Medicine: Building Strategies to Maintain This Critical Resource

Stearns, Jeffrey MD; Everard, Kelly M. PhD; Gjerde, Craig L. PhD; Stearns, Marjorie MPH; Shore, William MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000010
Research Reports

Purpose The average age of medical school faculty is increasing, with 30% over age 55 in 2007. In 2012, 56% of Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) members were at least 50 years old. The authors sought to identify the transition and faculty development needs of this group of senior faculty.

Method In 2012 the authors electronically surveyed 1,708 U.S. STFM members who were 50 or older, asking about demographics, highest degree, primary employer, career options considered in the previous year, issues of concern, mentoring needs, retirement plans, and likely activities in retirement.

Results The response rate was 45%, with 73% MD/DOs, 62% men, 89% white, and 64% employed by academic institutions. The most frequent issues of concern were balancing personal and work time (67%), maintaining health (66%), and planning for retirement (60%). Nearly a third had considered career advancement, changing employers, or reducing full-time employment. Fifty-one percent were not receiving mentoring of any kind, but 47% reported they would like to have a mentor. Sixty-four percent were planning to retire; in retirement, 75% said they would like to remain active in teaching and 55% in mentoring.

Conclusions Senior faculty in family medicine have significant career concerns and mentoring needs as they approach retirement, and these faculty can be valuable resources after retirement. As the age of faculty continues to rise, medical schools and specialty organizations can develop specific programs to meet the needs of these medical educators and better use this expertise in a time of limited resources.

Dr. Stearns is professor of family and community medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Dr. Everard is assistant professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Gjerde is professor emeritus of family and community medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Ms. Stearns is clinical assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Dr. Shore is professor of clinical family and community medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Funding/Support: Funding for this study was provided by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Foundation.

Other disclosures: None.

Ethical approval: Ethical approval was granted by the American Academy of Family Physicians IRB.

Previous presentations: Data were presented at the Association of American Medical Colleges Annual Meeting, San Francisco, California, November 6, 2012.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at http://links.lww.com/ACADMED/A165.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Stearns, 1020 N. 12th St., Suite 5120, Milwaukee, WI 53233; telephone: (414) 219-7467; fax: (414) 219-7044; e-mail: Jeffrey.Stearns@aurora.org.

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges