The Most Valuable Resource Is Time: Insights From a Novel National Program to Improve Retention of Physician-Scientists With Caregiving Responsibilities

Acad Med. 2019 Nov;94(11):1746-1756. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002903.


Purpose: To enhance understanding of challenges related to work-life integration in academic medicine and to inform the ongoing implementation of an existing program and the development of other interventions to promote success of physician-scientists.

Method: This study is part of a prospective analysis of the effects of the Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists (FRCS), a national program launched by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation at 10 U.S. institutions, which provides financial support to physician-scientists facing caregiving challenges. In early 2018, 28 of 33 program awardees participated in semistructured interviews. Questions were about challenges faced by physician-scientists as caregivers and their early perceptions of the FRCS. Multiple analysts reviewed deidentified transcripts, iteratively revised the coding scheme, and interpreted the data using qualitative thematic analysis.

Results: Participants' rich descriptions illuminated 5 interconnected themes: (1) Time is a critical and limited resource, (2) timing is key, (3) limited time resources and timing conflicts may have a particularly adverse effect on women's careers, (4) flexible funds enable reclamation and repurposing of time resources, and (5) FRCS leaders should be cognizant of time and timing conflicts when developing program-related offerings.

Conclusions: Programs such as the FRCS are instrumental in supporting individuals to delegate time-consuming tasks and to control how they spend their valuable time. Qualitative analysis suggests that access to and command of valuable time resources are crucial to career advancement, research productivity, and work-life flexibility, especially during critical time points along the physician-scientist trajectory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomedical Research / organization & administration*
  • Career Choice
  • Education, Medical / economics*
  • Faculty, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Financing, Organized / economics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / economics
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Program Development / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Research Personnel / organization & administration*