Background: Productive research environments are important for the development of academic family medicine, yet many of the current family medicine chairs have had little research training or experience and have rated research skills as a low priority for themselves. The younger chairs, however, representing the next generation of academic leadership, may have more traditional academic values, including the promotion of research.
Methods: The 106 active and interim chairs of family medicine academic units were surveyed by mail to determine their characteristics and attitudes toward their work responsibilities. We compared chairs 50 years of age or younger with those over 50 years of age.
Results: Before attaining their positions, younger chairs, in general, were more likely than older chairs to have received formal training in management, patient care, and academic skills, but they shared similar work experiences. Specifically, younger chairs were more likely to have had formal research training but did not have a great deal more research experience. Younger chairs were more likely to consider research skills to be essential in their present work activities and to identify faculty with formal training and extensive experience in research as potential chair replacements.
Conclusions: Younger chairs appear to have a greater appreciation for the importance of research, having received more formal training and valuing research skills in themselves and potential replacements. With the impending large turnover in family medicine leadership, there will be an opportunity to recruit chair replacements with similar viewpoints toward research, thus improving the outlook for research in academic family medicine.