The Impact of Administrative Academic Units (AAU) Grants on the Family Medicine Research Enterprise in the United States

Fam Med. 2016 Jun;48(6):452-8.


Background and objectives: The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awards funding to primary care departments-or "Academic Administrative Units" (AAUs) at US medical schools-to strengthen or grow these departments and ultimately increase the output of primary care physicians into the US workforce. One aspect of these AAU grants that is often overlooked is the fact that they support research infrastructure for these departments.

Methods: This study used multiple methods, including content analysis of current AAU grant abstracts (n=23), publications resulting from AAU funding (n=79), and survey responses from AAU project directors (n=19) to explore and describe the impact of current AAU grants on family medicine research in the United States.

Results: Federal support for family medicine departments remains very low compared to other disciplines. Several AAU grants have provided direct support for research activities as stipulated in the grant abstracts (6/23). However, most grants appear to have facilitated scholarly activity of some sort, including evaluation and quality improvement activities. Two practice-based research networks are supported with AAU funds, and at least 79 publications over the past 10 years, representing a wide variety of methodological approaches and topics, have been produced and indexed in PubMed with explicit acknowledgment of AAU funding.

Conclusions: In the absence of substantial NIH support for family medicine departments, the AAU funding mechanism remains a crucial, but often overlooked, factor in facilitating scholarly activity in departments of family medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Financing, Government / economics*
  • Humans
  • Primary Health Care
  • Publications
  • Research Support as Topic / methods*
  • United States