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Harris DL, Krause KC, Parish DC, Smith MU. Academic competencies for medical faculty. Fam Med. 2007 May;39(5):343-50. Reviewed by Julie Byerley, University of North Carolina.

Harris DL, Krause KC, Parish DC, Smith MU. Academic competencies for medical faculty. Fam Med. 2007 May;39(5):343-50.

Reviewed by Julie Byerley, University of North Carolina.

What is the problem and what is known about it so far?
Medical training prepares the faculty member for clinical care, but less training is available for becoming an effective teacher, functioning effectively in administrative work, or efficiently navigating the systems of medical education, research, and program development. Competencies are being outlined for medical learners and for practicing clinicians, but non-clinical competencies for faculty members in academic medicine have not been comprehensively defined.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?
This paper describes the development of checklists of academic competencies for family medicine faculty and publishes the tools created in the process.

Who was studied?
Family medicine faculty members in various positions were considered by expert panel in preparation of the lists of competencies.

How was the study done?
This paper outlines the work of the Faculty Futures Initiative, convened in 1997 and funded by the Bureau of Health Professions to develop a strategic plan for faculty development in family medicine. A twenty-one member expert panel was created from leaders of family medicine organizations and other related groups including the AAP. They achieved consensus on a master list of non-clinical academic competencies which they divided into categories of leadership, administration, teaching, curriculum development, research, medical informatics, care management, and multiculturalism.

They then decided which competencies were necessary for people holding different positions in academic departments. Positions considered include teacher-administrators: chair, residency director, clinic director; teacher-educators: director of education, pre-doctoral director, clerkship director; teacher-researcher: director of research, research faculty; and teacher-clinician: community preceptor, clinical faculty.

Finally, they developed a list of ideals for proportion of time spent on each competency category for faculty holding the various positions outlined.

The lists were reviewed by a separate expert panel and revised after broad input.

What did the researchers find?
The checklists are available at

For family medicine clerkship directors the authors describe the ideal time distribution of competency-focused work as 30% clinical, 20% teaching, 15% administrative, 15% curriculum development, 10% research, 5% leadership, and 5% medical informatics. Competencies outlined for family medicine clerkship directors include all those named in teaching, curriculum development, and multiculturalism but fewer of those named in leadership, administration, research, and medical informatics.

What were the limitations of the study?
The checklist was developed by expert panel consensus. They have been implemented in various ways in at least four medical schools (U Washington, Wayne State University, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, and Mercer University) but have not been validated by outcomes research. Competencies for family medicine clerkship directors may be different than competencies required for pediatrics clerkship directors.

What are the implications of the study?
The paper presents several tools that are potentially useful in faculty development. The core competencies list could be used as a guide for self-assessment of faculty members or as a framework for feedback from mentors or peers. This list also could be used to guide curriculum in faculty development programs. The list of competencies categorized by position or by ideal time distribution may be used to reflect on performance in a particular faculty position. And, just as lists of competencies have been developed for clinicians, competency checklists for faculty are likely forthcoming. These provide a starting point for consideration.

Editorial Comment: This should prove remarkably valuable when meeting with the Chair (e.g. when asked to doing something or at the end of year review). We have defined competence in research and now finally are defining competencies in education and administration (outside the business world). The real rub will be in designing assessment tools. Bill Raszka.

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