The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Medical School Graduation Questionnaire reports that although 45% of graduating medical students aspire to work in an academic setting, only about 16% will do so, largely because the pay differential is considerable (academic physicians can make from 13%-52% less than physicians in full-time practice). In addition to financial considerations, the academic physician juggles many responsibilities and must develop strengths in many areas, “including diagnostic acumen, knowledge, communication and interpersonal skills, professionalism and humanism, skillful negotiation of the health care system, taking a scholarly approach to clinical practice, and having passion for clinical medicine.” Perhaps because of the many job demands, up to 38% of medical school faculty leave academia within 10 years, according to the AAMC.
Time is another issue. Physicians in today’s academic environment commonly spend 80% of their time devoted to clinical practice and 20% on “everything else,” according to an Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs/Association of Administrators in Academic Pediatrics report. One reason for this uneven split is that clinical practice generates revenue. “The need to generate revenue through direct patient care has significantly skewed the focus of academic physicians towards clinical productivity,” according to Dr. Angira Patel, Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Cardiology) and Medical Education at the Feinberg School of Medicine. So while research and scholarship enable the improvement of clinical practice, and training the next generation of doctors, teachers, and researchers is critically important, these scholarly endeavors often take a back seat to the financial success of the institution.
At Ochsner, we greatly appreciate our physicians who are dedicated to education and research. In recognition of our faculty’s many job demands and time constraints, the Journal staff assists faculty members in numerous ways to facilitate their scholarly activity efforts. Thanks to this collaborative and fruitful relationship, our academic physicians significantly contribute to the excellent work published year after year in the Journal.