University of Arizona Medical College Faculty Reported on "the Verge of Desperation"

We have posted before (here and here) about how medical schools, despite their name, often fail to pay or otherwise reward faculty to actually teach.

We also noted that one US medical school dean was frank enough to admit that his institution most values faculty members who are "taxpayers," i.e., those who bring in large amounts of what is euphemistically called "external support." On the other hand, faculty who are "welfare recipients," that is, those whose work fails to bring in such support, have at best a "tenuous" position. Since teaching in medical schools almost never brings in substantial "external support," faculty who spend most of their time teaching may be in a "tenuous" position. Similarly, faculty who do research that may not be popular with current research sponsors (now mainly pharmaceutical, biotech, and device companies) may also be in a "tenous" position.

Just recently, the (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star reported on the current situation at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in terms that should be familiar.

Widespread turmoil causing extremely low morale within the University of Arizona College of Medicine 'could destroy the fabric of the college,' says a new report on the situation.

The problems plaguing the medical college have pushed many of the UA's top senior physicians and scientists to the verge of desperation,' said UA faculty Chair Wanda Howell.

The report, which cites 'considerable unrest, demoralization and loss of focus on mission' at the UA medical college, will be presented today at a meeting of the UA Faculty Senate.

What is so greatly demoralizing the faculty?

At the crux of the crisis, according to the report, is the amount of time UA doctors must give to their clinical practices, in order to generate profits, at the sacrifice of academic research and teaching, the report stated.

'As a university medical college, we are supposed to pay more than lip service to research,' Howell said. 'But the doctors are so burdened by their clinical duties, there is absolutely no time for research.'

'This has put many faculty members (teaching physicians) on the verge of desperation.'

In particular,

'After investing 10 hours a day in clinical duties (patient care), they did not understand how they could provide high-quality teaching and build a competitive research program.'

So here is another example of medical school faculty, whose titles imply that they are supposed to teach and conduct other academic pursuits as their main responsibility, instead are expected to "support" their work with "external funds," in this case, derived from their own clinical practice. This leaves them with no time to actually act like faculty.

What is the point of having medical school "faculty" who aren't paid and have no time to teach?

Faculty at no other professional schools would tolerate this. Has anyone ever heard of law, engineering, architecture, accounting, business school faculty who are supposed to "support" their entire salaries by working full-time in their field (or bringing in huge research grants)?

So why are medical faculty supposed to do so?

And what sort of medical education will be provided by faculty who spend 10 hours a day bringing in money for their institutions instead of teaching?

As I wrote before, the call to "show me the money" is mission-hostile management, writ large, of some of our most important, and heretofore revered academic medical institutions.The continuance of such mission-hostile management may yet doom these institutions.