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Sabbaticals in US Medical Schools

Published:December 04, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2022.11.007

      Abstract

      Background

      Sabbaticals are an important feature of academia for faculty and their institutions. Whereas sabbaticals are common in institutions of higher learning, little is known about their role and utilization in US medical schools. This perspective piece examining sabbaticals in medical school faculty was undertaken at a time that well-being of health professionals was increasingly being recognized as a workforce health priority.

      Methods

      We surveyed associate deans at US medical schools in 2021 about faculty who had taken sabbaticals within the past 3 years, the parameters of the sabbaticals, and institutional policies and respondents' predictions of future sabbatical use.

      Results

      A total of 53% of respondents reported any faculty had taken sabbaticals in the past 3 years (M = 6.27; Median = 3; range = 1-60). Institutions rated enhancing research as the most important objective, while recognizing other benefits. Sabbaticals were more commonly taken by male, white, senior faculty PhDs. Details about sabbaticals, including eligibility, expectations, length, financial support, and benefits were reviewed. Most (54.8%) respondents expected no change in the number of faculty seeking sabbaticals. Nearly all anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic would not affect sabbatical policies.

      Conclusion

      In contrast to other institutions of higher learning, sabbatical-taking by medical school faculty is rare. We explore factors that may contribute to this phenomenon (eg, the tripartite mission, faculty clinical responsibilities, culture of medicine, and student debt). Despite financial and other barriers, a closer look at the benefits of sabbaticals is warranted as a mechanism that may support faculty well-being, retention, and mental health.

      Keywords

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