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Acad Emerg Med. 1999 Sep;6(9):932-8.

Sabbatical programs and the status of academic emergency medicine: a survey.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, MA 02118, USA.



The Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) commissioned a survey in 1998 to describe sabbatical programs, academic rank, and tenure, and to shed light on factors affecting the continuum of faculty development, as a context for evaluating the potential importance of emergency medicine (EM) sabbatical programs.


The chairs of 120 EM residency programs were surveyed.


The response rate was 90%. Of 108 responses, 44 were academic EM departments (AEMDs); ten were their affiliates. The setting was urban for 82%; 37% were publicly funded and 58% privately. AEMDs were more likely to have a tenure track and eligibility for a sabbatical program, but not more likely to use a sabbatical program. Among 2,042 ranked EM faculty, there were 121 professors and 346 associate professors. Mean sabbatical length was six months, provided at full pay requiring a mean of 5.7 years of employment. Among 39 programs reporting eligibility for an EM sabbatical, requirements included: tenure (43%), academic rank of associate professor (78%), an application with multiple approval levels (92%), and a formal report (75%). Thirteen EM programs used sabbaticals; only 40 faculty members altogether (9% of senior faculty) have taken sabbaticals. The mean value of sabbaticals (rated by users on a scale of 1 to 10) was 6.8. Reduced funding, lack of departmental status, difficulty retaining faculty, Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) regulations, graduate medical education (GME) cutbacks, and no release time were identified as challenges for emergency physicians (EPs) wishing to participate in sabbaticals. Strategies proposed to overcome these obstacles include quality customer service, streamlined operations, outside contracts, computerization, hiring individuals with PhDs, collaboration, political activity, and faculty development.


A sabbatical can be beneficial for individuals and their institutions, but presently EPs have not been able to maximize use of available opportunities. Some obstacles to successful participation of EM in sabbatical programs might be overcome with creative strategies and the active support of professional academic organizations.

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