What's Been Learned about How to Support Diversity in Academic Medicine

From 2006 to 2008, researchers at Yale University School of Medicine interviewed and surveyed former participants in the Minority Medical Faculty Development Program about their program experience, their subsequent career and the relationship between the two.

The program, now named the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) since 1983. It provides four-year research awards to young, highly qualified minority physicians committed to a career in academic medicine.

The purpose of this research project was not to evaluate the program but to identify components that might translate into policy strategies to attract, retain and support minority physicians on medical school faculties.

Preliminary Findings and Policy Implications: The following were among the preliminary findings of the study based on survey responses from 69 former program fellows, reported by the project director in November 2008 (work on a final report was ongoing as of March 2009).

Key Findings

  • A majority of the survey respondents said that protected research time and peer support were key aspects of the RWJF program that were important to their career success.
  • The five most important job aspects for respondents who were considering leaving their current academic institutions were also the five most important job aspects for those who did not plan to leave their current positions:
    • Opportunities for career advancement
    • Opportunities to collaborate with other faculty
    • Clarity of productivity expectations
    • Relationships with administration and leadership
    • Institutional climate of racial/ethnic discrimination

Policy Implications

  • "Successfully supporting diversity across career stages is an active process for leaders in academic medical centers."
  • It is important to capture "faculty experiences when opportunities for intervention and retention still exist."
  • Lessons from the Minority Medical Faculty Development Program "could potentially be translated into best practices policy strategies that attract, retain and support diversity among academic faculty."