Considering context in academic medicine: differences in demographic and professional characteristics and in research productivity and advancement metrics across seven clinical departments

Acad Med. 2015 Aug;90(8):1077-83. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000717.


Purpose: To understand the disciplinary contexts in which faculty work, the authors examined demographics, professional characteristics, research productivity, and advancement across seven clinical departments at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and nationally.

Method: HMS analyses included faculty from seven clinical departments-anesthesiology, medicine, neurology, pediatrics, psychiatry, radiology, and surgery-in May 2011 (N = 7,304). National analyses included faculty at 141 U.S. medical schools in the same seven departments as of December 31, 2011 (N = 91,414). The authors used chi-square and Wilcoxon Mann-Whitney tests to compare departmental characteristics.

Results: Heterogeneity in demographics, professional characteristics, and advancement across departments was observed in HMS and national data. At HMS, psychiatry had the highest percentage of underrepresented minority faculty at 6.6% (75/1,139). In anesthesiology, 24.2% (128/530) of faculty were Asian, whereas in psychiatry only 7.9% (90/1,139) were (P < .0001). Female faculty were the majority in pediatrics and psychiatry, whereas in surgery 26.3% (172/654) of the faculty were female (P < .0001). At HMS, surgery, radiology, and neurology had the shortest median times to promotion and the highest median number of publications, H-index, and second-degree centrality. Neurology also had the highest percentage of faculty who had been principal investigators on a National Institutes of Health-funded grant.

Conclusions: There were differences in demographics, professional characteristics, and advancement across clinical departments at HMS and nationally. The context in which faculty work, of which department is a proxy, should be accounted for in research on faculty career outcomes and diversity inclusion in academic medicine.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Anesthesiology
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Career Mobility*
  • Demography
  • Efficiency
  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Female
  • General Surgery
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurology
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Publishing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiology
  • United States