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Motivating Factors for Academic Physicians Within Departments of Medicine

  • Author Footnotes
    1 Dr Wright is supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.
    Scott M. Wright
    Individual reprints of this article are not available. Address correspondence to Scott M. Wright, MD, Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, 4940 Eastern Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224-2780
    1 Dr Wright is supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.
    Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, Md
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  • Brent W. Beasley
    Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Missouri in Kansas City-St Luke's Hospital
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 Dr Wright is supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.


      To understand what motivates academic physicians at a time when physician dissatisfaction is prevalent.


      Of a cohort of 480 physician faculty members (identified from the Association of American Medical Colleges faculty roster) hired at the assistant professor level, 183 were monitored prospectively for a characterization of their success in achieving promotion. In mid-2001, follow-up data were collected about the factors that physicians described as motivating in their work. We conducted this study to understand the differences in motivators between clinician-educators and clinician-investigators and between male and female physicians, as well as to validate a previously used instrument developed to assess motivation and occupational values.


      Of 183 physicians monitored, 144 (79%) responded to an interim follow-up questionnaire. Factor analysis revealed that physicians' occupational motivators could be grouped statistically into 3 factors: self-expression, helping others, and extrinsic rewards. Compared with clinician-educators, clinician-investigators were more motivated in their current work by having the ability to express themselves (composite factor score, 4.30 vs 3.84; P<.001). Clinician-investigators also rated 4 of the 6 items within the factor of self-expression as being significantly stronger motivators for them than did the clinician-educators. Compared with male physicians, female physicians indicated they were more motivated by helping others (composite factor score, 4.18 vs 3.89; P=.03).


      Factors that motivate physicians appear to be different for clinician-investigators and clinician-educators as well as for male and female physicians. Understanding the inspiration for physicians may help medical leadership to better motivate and relate to their physician workforce.
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