The culture of academic medicine: faculty perceptions of the lack of alignment between individual and institutional values

J Gen Intern Med. 2009 Dec;24(12):1289-95. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1131-5. Epub 2009 Oct 16.


Background: Energized, talented faculty are essential to achieving the missions of academic medical centers (AMCs) in education, research and health care. The alignment of individuals' values with workplace experiences are linked to meaningfulness of work and productivity.

Objective: To determine faculty values and their alignment with institutional values.

Design: A qualitative hypothesis-generating interview study to understand the professional experiences of faculty and organizational approach in five AMCs that were nationally representative in regional and organizational characteristics. Analysis was inductive and data driven.

Participants: Using stratified, purposeful sampling, we interviewed 96 male and female faculty at different career stages (early career, plateaued, senior faculty and those who had left academic medicine) and diverse specialties (generalists, medical and surgical subspecialists, and research scientists).

Approach: Dominant themes that emerged from the data.

Results: Faculty described values relating to excellence in clinical care, community service (including care for the underserved and disadvantaged), teaching, intellectual rigor/freedom and discovery, all values that mirror the stated missions of AMCs. However, many faculty also described behaviors that led them to conclude that their AMCs, in practice, undervalued excellence in clinical care, and their social and educational missions. Themes were seen across gender, career stage, race and discipline, except that female leaders appeared more likely than male leaders to identify incongruence of individual values and organizational practices.

Conclusions: In this study of five diverse medical schools, faculty values were well aligned with stated institutional missions; however, many perceived that institutional behaviors were not always aligned with individual faculty values.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel / ethnology*
  • Career Mobility
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Interviews as Topic / methods
  • Male
  • Organizational Policy*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Social Values / ethnology*