Archive for April, 2012

The Hidden Bias

Friday, April 27th, 2012

When Mark Schuster was a medical student, he served on the admissions committee. He recalls interviewing a particularly well qualified candidate and rating him with perfect scores. After the interview, he was surprised to compare notes with a faculty member who had given the applicant very low marks. Curious what flaw he had missed, Schuster listened as the interviewer explained he just didn’t feel “comfortable” with the applicant.

Stellar as he was, the student was also an effeminate man. Schuster recalls this incident and others that occurred on his way to becoming chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston. Since his training, medical schools have become more visible in their support for LGBT students and diversity. At the same time, decisions still get made in small committee meetings far from public view. Training in unconscious bias may help search committees and admissions deans become more aware of submerged prejudices that have overt consequences.

Bonuses via Peer Review

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

In the traditional academic workplace, compensation is set from top. That way resources get distributed fairly and institutional priorities can take precedence.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting about a new model for bonuses in which colleagues reward each other. MK-BT347A_MARKE_G_20120403182710As practiced at a coffee shop in San Francisco, employees receive a certain amount of shares that they can distribute to their coworkers, in essence voting for how much they value each other’s contributions.

This model requires leadership to cede some control but can also bring to their attention the work of some less visible employees. If academic medicine is going to take the concept of collaboration seriously, peer bonuses are one way to recognize excellence in that area.

Of course, tying teamwork to compensation is not the only way to do that. Praise comes in many forms.

Where Do NIH Funds Go?

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Even though we all know rankings are flawed, we still use them as indicators of quality. When BU’s School of Medicine advanced in the annual U.S. News and World Report survey of medical schools, the news appeared on the school’s website. Citation counts and impact factors play a role in promotion decisions despite accusations that the numbers can be manipulated.

When it comes to departmental bragging rights, one marker of excellence is total NIH funds garnered. The NIH used to release a ranking of where they allotted funds, but decided to devote its resources elsewhere. Robert Roskoski, Jr. stepped in to compile his own unofficial rankings. The retired LSU biochemistry professor analyzes raw data released by the NIH RePORTER to calculate his own ranking of grant recipients by medical school, department, and PI.

By his tally, BU’s Department of Medicine ranks 22nd among all departments of internal medicine in NIH funding for 2011. The $48 million the department brings in puts it ahead of the University of Iowa (with $45 million) but behind nationally leading Johns Hopkins with $153 million.

The count does not include funding received by Boston Medical Center (another $38 million in 2011). In fact, BMC ranks 11th of 110 teaching hospitals in grants received.

It’s absorbing to view the slices of data from different angles, but in the end the dollar totals tell only one measure of excellence.