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An Adaptive Approach to Facilitating Research Productivity in a Primary Care Clinical Department

Weber-Main, Anne Marie PhD; Finstad, Deborah A.; Center, Bruce A. PhD; Bland, Carole J. PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318295005f

Efforts to foster the growth of a department’s or school’s research mission can be informed by known correlates of research productivity, but the specific strategies to be adopted will be highly context-dependent, influenced by local, national, and discipline-specific needs and resources. The authors describe a multifaceted approach—informed by a working model of organizational research productivity—by which the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (Twin Cities campus) successfully increased its collective research productivity during a 10-year period (1997–2007) and maintained these increases over time.

Facing barriers to recruitment of faculty investigators, the department focused instead on nurturing high-potential investigators among their current faculty via a new, centrally coordinated research program, with provision of training, protected time, technical resources, mentoring, and a scholarly culture to support faculty research productivity. Success of these initiatives is documented by the following: substantial increases in the department’s external research funding, rise to a sustained top-five ranking based on National Institutes of Health funding to U.S. family medicine departments, later-stage growth in the faculty’s publishing record, increased research capacity among the faculty, and a definitive maturation of the department’s research mission. The authors offer their perspectives on three apparent drivers of success with broad applicability—namely, effective leadership, systemic culture change, and the self-awareness to adapt to changes in the local, institutional, and national research environment.

Dr. Weber-Main is assistant professor of medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ms. Finstad is research coordinator, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Center is research associate and coordinator, Office of Research Consultation and Services, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Bland, deceased, was assistant dean for faculty development and professor of family medicine and community health, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Weber-Main, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, 717 Delaware St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414; telephone: (612) 625-7433; fax: (612) 626-6782; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges