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Faculty Development for Medical Educators: Current Barriers and Future Directions

Searle, Nancy S., EdD; Thibault, George E., MD; Greenberg, Stephen B., MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31820dc1b3
From the Editor

Dr. Searle is director, Office of Professional Development, and director, Academy of Distinguished Educators, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

Dr. Thibault is president, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, New York, New York.

Dr. Greenberg is dean of medical education, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

This work was supported by a writing conference funded by the Medallion Fund and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. The conference was entitled “A 2020 Vision of Faculty Development Across the Medical Education Continuum” and was held at Baylor College of Medicine on February 26 to 28, 2010.

To respond appropriately to the coming changes in medicine, we medical educators need to change medical education. We can do this by changing the people who teach medicine—at all levels—and change what they teach, how they teach, and how they do research in medical education. To accomplish this, faculty development must change. What should modern and future faculty development look like? How are we going to accelerate and evaluate changes in medical education? A conference entitled “A 2020 Vision of Faculty Development Across the Medical Education Continuum” was held at Baylor College of Medicine on February 26 to 28, 20101 to develop recommendations for training faculty who prepare physicians to meet the nation's evolving health care needs. Articles from the conference are published in this issue of Academic Medicine.

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Key Lessons Learned

The conference confirmed the idea that if you want to change medicine, you have to change those who teach medicine, and you can accomplish this with specific educational strategies for faculty development. In addition, whereas some medical schools have many excellent faculty development offerings, some schools offer very few. The conference reinforced the idea that quality faculty development must be made available to all who teach medicine. The conference also recommended creating a Web site specifically as a resource repository for faculty development.

Areas of faculty development that present unique challenges and will require a concerted effort to implement include new educational technologies, bioinformatics, and new information concerning the biology of learning. Because of the rapid changes developing in educational technology, it is difficult to predict what technologies will be important for educators in one or two years. The development of bioinformatics tools for teaching will be expensive and will require an entirely different type of teaching. At this point, the latest research on the biology of learning has validated the current educational research results in teaching methods. But we will need to be prepared to change teaching strategies when we discover more about how we learn.

As models of care change, faculty development will also need to change. We will need to examine how we train the health care team and improve how we change patient behaviors. We will need to develop strategies to harness new technologies to aid teaching and patient care. Faculty and students with access to integrated biomedical informatics systems will be on the front lines of discovering health issues in the populations they serve and assessing the effectiveness of the health care systems in which they practice.

One model of care that is already changing is the current physician–patient model. Newer, more patient-centered models of care include a team approach to patient care, which will require physicians to learn how to be effective team members. Technologies like telemedicine and mobile text messaging (e.g., to remind patients to test their blood sugar and report it) demand an entirely different model of care, managed by physicians with different skills and competencies, to accommodate the particular needs of their patient populations.2,3

Our next steps include identifying funding for and recognition of faculty development, communicating and sharing materials among faculty developers, linking with other organizations, connecting with other professions on the topic of faculty development, and convening a conference on interdisciplinary faculty development.

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Funding for and Recognition of Faculty Development

The recommendations listed above cannot be implemented without additional funds. For those medical schools with established faculty development programs, adding or updating courses in the neurobiology of learning, teaching technologies, and educational assessment should not be particularly expensive. Other recommendations, which could involve paying for the implementation of a bioinformatics program and paying for teaching—through the development of a core teaching faculty with reduced income-generating responsibilities—would be very expensive for medical teaching institutions as currently budgeted.

Molenaar et al4 state that educators at various levels need various types of training. Using this principle, funding requirements would vary, depending on the level of training and competence necessary at each teaching level. As an example, those at the basic teaching level need courses on developing teaching and evaluation skills, those at the coordinating level need courses on curriculum development, and those in leadership positions need courses on educational leadership. One way to economically provide teacher training is to develop Web-based teaching modules. This is especially important for those institutions that have few faculty development offerings. Passing a certain number of these courses could then entitle the learner to include a title on his or her curriculum vitae such as “certified medical teacher.” Of course, one central agency would have to develop and support the teaching materials and also take on the certification task. The development of these teaching modules might be funded by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) capital request grant.

Funding for training at the coordinating or leadership levels might be through the development of T32-type training grants for faculty development. These might include stipends to defray faculty salaries and pay for training activities to enable existing or new faculty to spend one to three months in education development. These monthlong activities could occur at designated faculty development training centers. Medical schools would designate individuals for these training grants. Sources of funding might be from agencies such as the NIH, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the American Hospital Association, and/or health insurance companies.

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Communication and Sharing of Materials Between Faculty and Institutions

At the conference, many participants expressed an interest in developing a listserv dedicated to those interested in faculty development and recognition of medical educators. After the conference, organizers sought support of such a listserv from many organizations, and the University of Houston agreed to shoulder that responsibility; the listserv was launched in spring 2010. Within two weeks, 334 individuals from 10 countries had subscribed to it. This listserv is a vehicle for asking questions, disseminating information, and exchanging ideas about faculty development and recognition at various institutions. (To join the Faculty Development Listserv, send an e-mail to Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message, type sub FacDevMedEd, followed by your first name and last name.)

Medical education faculty development needs a home where information can be stored so that all involved would not have to “reinvent the wheel.” Dedicated content on a national Web site like that hosted by the Association of American Medical Colleges and perhaps an area specifically devoted to medical educational faculty development on MedEdPORTAL could be a start.5

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Connections With Other Medical Organizations and Other Professions

We medical educators need to connect with what is being done in faculty development at institutions and medical specialty organizations and by educators in the other health professions such as nursing, dentistry, allied health, public health, and pharmacy. We also need to explore faculty development in other postsecondary disciplines such as engineering, business, and teaching. Many disciplines outside of the health sciences have established faculty development programs from which we can learn.6,7

To encourage collaboration with other disciplines, we call for a national interdisciplinary conference on faculty development. Such a conference would allow health sciences educators and representatives from a variety of medical specialty organizations and other disciplines to discuss what they are doing individually and how they could join to improve the work of all of those who deliver health care. A second important imperative for such a conference would be to ascertain the costs and possible revenue sources for a national education faculty development initiative. We suggest that the conference described above could follow the model of last year's conference, A 2020 Vision of Faculty Development Across the Medical Education Continuum, and could build on some of the insights gained there.

Nancy S. Searle, EdD

George E. Thibault, MD

Stephen B. Greenberg, MD

Dr. Searle is director, Office of Professional Development, and director, Academy of Distinguished Educators, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

Dr. Thibault is president, Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, New York, New York.

Dr. Greenberg is dean of medical education, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

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1 Baylor College of Medicine. Faculty Development Conference: A 2020 Vision of Faculty Development Across the Medical Education Continuum; February 26–27, 2010; Houston, Tex. Accessed December 20, 2010.
2 Lawrence D. Let's meet onscreen. The use of video is expanding beyond rural areas. Healthc Inform. 2010;27:26, 28.
3 Hanauer DA, Wentzell K, Laffel N, Laffel LM. Computerized automated reminder diabetes system (CARDS): E-mail and SMS cell phone text messaging reminders to support diabetes management. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2009;11:99–106.
4 Molenaar WM, Zanting A, Van Beukelen P, et al. A framework of teaching competencies across the medical education continuum. Med Teach. 2009;31:390–396.
5 MedEdPORTAL. Accessed December 20, 2010.
6 Brent R, Felder RM. Engineering faculty development: Getting the sermon beyond the choir. J Faculty Devel. 2001;18:73–81.
7 Hess GF. Improving teaching and learning in law school: Faculty development research, principles, and programs. Widener L Rev. 2006;12:443–471.

Section Description

Editor's Note: This month, the journal features a group of articles that examine the state of the art in faculty development. Nancy S. Searle, EdD, George E. Thibault, MD, and Stephen B. Greenberg, MD, worked to ensure that these articles, taken together, provide a valuable overview of faculty development and that they present the next steps necessary to realize the full benefits of faculty development initiatives. I thank Nancy, George, and Stephen for their efforts and for writing the following Guest Editorial to introduce the articles. A special thanks goes to Academic Medicine staff member Liza Karlin, who worked tirelessly to develop and organize the articles so that they would most effectively share important lessons and document key strategies for advancing the practice of faculty development.

—Steven L. Kanter, MD

© 2011 Association of American Medical Colleges