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Faculty and leadership are unhappy with medical school culture

Research Activities, June 2009, No. 346

Medical school faculty treasure and value their relationships with residents and their patients. Such is not the case, however, when it comes to relating to their peers. A survey shows that they feel disconnected to each other and find it difficult to develop trusting relationships with colleagues and supervisors. A team led by Linda Pololi, M.B.B.S, M.R.C.P., of Brandeis University, interviewed faculty members from five diverse medical schools in the United States about their perceptions and experiences in academic medicine. Participants included new and highly experienced clinicians from different specialties.

Medical school faculty found most rewarding their interactions with physicians-in-training, research collaborators, and patients. On the other hand, many said they felt isolated, lacked supportive relationships among their peers, and the medical school culture did not support trusting relationships. They portrayed the culture as intense, competitive, stressful, and individualistic. Such feelings were expressed by both men and women at all stages in their career development.

Academic medical environments had a "dehumanizing" effect on those interviewed. Showing any sensitivity to others was considered a weakness. Study participants felt they were not valued as faculty who contributed to the success of the medical school and the larger organization was viewed as not being loyal to the faculty. At some medical schools, there was a culture of mistrust, dishonesty, and breaches of academic integrity. The researchers suggest schools of medicine need to make efforts to create and support trusting relationships in order to enhance clinical, educational, and research activities. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS16342).

See "A study of the relational aspects of the culture of academic medicine," by Dr. Pololi, Peter Conrad, Ph.D., Sharon Knight, Ph.D., R.N., and Phyllis Carr, M.D., in the January 2009 Academic Medicine 84(1), pp. 106-114.

Current as of June 2009
Internet Citation: Faculty and leadership are unhappy with medical school culture: Research Activities, June 2009, No. 346. June 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.