Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Thank you for your superb January issue,1 which covered the waterfront of critical issues in faculty promotion, retention, and institutional climate, including Schloss et al’s solid demonstrations of why developing faculty makes financial sense and numerous examples of what we are learning about the how of facilitating faculty achievement, discussed by Ries et al and Branch et al.
One of the rich threads connecting many of the articles is the importance of relational aspects of the culture. Especially vivid is Pololi et al’s five-school study finding a high prevalence of disconnection among faculty and discomfort with the expectation of personal overextension and aggressive self-promotion. One of their findings is hopeful, however: Closeness with a colleague can counterbalance the negativity. Therefore, any attention an academic health center (AHC) pays to the formation of relationships among faculty is likely to pay off in multiple ways.
That study and others have found that women are more sensitive than men to the lack of collegiality in academic medicine. Given their increasing numbers and academic medicine’s reliance on their intellectual capital, this ought to sound an alarm— especially in conjunction with the findings of the article in this issue by Harrison and Gregg, who warn that institutions that do not integrate more viable opportunities for physicians to work less than full-time will lose this growing segment of MD graduates.
An academic institution’s faculty are its greatest asset, yet many AHCs treat them more like expendable fuel—even though faculty disengagement translates not only into lower productivity but also behaviors that damage the learning environment. AHCs cannot profit from their initial financial investment in faculty without more attention to their needs as learners and professionals and to the relational milieu—of particular significance because patient satisfaction is strongly linked to physicians’ satisfaction. Other reasons to pay more attention to connecting with faculty are urgent questions about who are the faculty of the future—are we developing a sufficient supply of physicians and scientists who are academically productive and whom students view as excellent role models, especially given the preferences of the next generation for less-than-full-time positions?
All those concerned about these issues and about facilitating faculty resilience may wish to know about a new book2 that addresses many of the needs raised by the January issue.
Janet Bickel, MA
Career and leadership development coach and consultant; (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1 Acad Med. 2009;84:1-148.
2 Cole TR, Goodrich TJ, Gritz ER, eds. Faculty Health in Academic Medicine: Physicians, Scientists, and the Pressures of Success. Totowa, NJ: Humana; 2008.