Academic medical centers must make systematic changes to improve quality of life and productivity of their faculty.

This is based on a commentary that appeared in the October 12 issue of Science Translational Medicine. The commentary, co-authored by Mary C. Beckerle, Ph.D., chief executive officer and director of Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, suggested six strategies to achieve these changes.

Faculty members have duties that include performing biomedical research; educating future health care providers; delivering state-of-the-art health care; contributing to policy development, peer review, and community education.

According to the authors, relatively little attention is paid to factors that would improve faculty members’ professional satisfaction. They pointed to a recent survey that found high levels of anxiety, depression, and job dissatisfaction among more than 2,000 medical school faculty at various private and public institutions in the U.S.

The six strategies are the following:

Value the contributions of both individuals and teams>
Nurture the young
Integrate the personal and the professional
Create inclusive communities
Develop enlightened leadership
Emphasize service

Although this seems like common sense, many challenges in the prevailing AMC culture keep these changes from being implemented. For example, some have expressed concerns that being more inclusive will mean lowering standards of excellence. Others believe that professional success actually requires the sacrifice of personal life.” – Hannah Valantine¬† Senior Associate Dean M.D.

Another co-author, Dena Towner, M.D., Director, Prenatal Diagnosis and Chief of the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of California, Davis, adds, “Adoption of the Nepenthe principles as core values will support positive transformation of our institutions. It will require financial resources, time, and the discomfort of change, but the benefits of enhanced faculty recruitment, retention and productive scholarship will greatly outweigh these costs.”

Along with Beckerle, Valantine, and Towner, the commentary’s seven co-authors include Kathryn L. Reed, M.D., University of Arizona; Mary Ann Shafer, M.D., University of California (UC) San Francisco; Rosalyn P. Scott, M.D., Wright State University; and Nancy R. Zahniser, Ph.D., University of Colorado. Initial ideas for the commentary were developed as the authors participated in the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women.