New faculty development programs may not increase research productivity of the average faculty member (Image source: Thinkstock)

Are academic anesthesiology departments academic departments? When individuals join faculty departments, do they become academics in the classic sense? In other words, do they produce publications so they can be promoted? In the July edition of Anesthesia & Analgesia, Dr. Bradley J. Hindman, Department of Anesthesia, The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, and coauthors describe their efforts to get junior faculty to produce a primary goal of a first-authored publication, grant application, or new major clinical or educational components in the article “Research, Education, and Nonclinical Service Productivity of New Junior Anesthesia Faculty During a Two-Year Faculty Development Program.” Junior faculty were assigned two advisors, were required to attend a two-year series of seminars based on faculty interests and were also invited to attend a 20-hour seminar on the design, conduct and analysis of clinical trials.

Most new faculty took more than a calendar year to accomplish a primary goal and the program, if it did increase faculty productivity, did so by very little. Three junior faculty members were able to produce either a first-authored publication, grant application, or new major clinical or educational components, but these individuals received more financial support than the other participants.

Money, in the form of support of nonclinical time and funding to undertake research, is required to boost academic productivity. Naturally, projects should precede funding. Salaries could potentially be lowered in order to increase nonclinical academic time, yet faculty recruitment might then be seriously hampered.  Clearly, however, new faculty development programs are not enough to increase the research productivity of the average faculty member sufficiently to be economically sustainable or to engender a long-term research program.

We need to think more creatively how academic anesthesiology departments remain or turn into academic departments. Anesthesiology departments within a university cannot be indistinguishable from anesthesiology departments outside of academe. What are your thoughts?