Saturday, June 15, 2024

Harmonizing Academic Missions in a Family Medicine Department: A Longitudinal Case Study

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In academic settings, the tripartite mission of care, education, and research often exists more in theory than in practice, leading to conflicting priorities among faculty. This article delves into a large family medicine department’s endeavor to align these three missions, demonstrating that such harmonization can create value for patients, learners, and faculty alike.

Competing Priorities in Academic Missions

Traditionally, academic faculty have found themselves torn among the tripartite mission, with each component—care, education, and research—competing for time and resources. This disjointed approach has stymied the potential for innovation within a learning health system, where ideally, these missions should reinforce each other. The paper outlines specific experiences and implementation strategies aimed at harmonizing these missions within an academic department.

The authors present a longitudinal case study focusing on a large family medicine department where the missions were integrated to function in a mutually beneficial manner. This harmonization ensures that no single mission overshadows the others; rather, each mission informs and strengthens the others, allowing faculty to experience their roles as a cohesive whole.

Strategies for Harmonization

Leading a complex adaptive system within an academic department requires specific strategies. The authors employed three key concepts: a “good enough” vision, frequent and productive interactions, and a few simple rules. These principles enabled faculty to align their work naturally, without rigid directives on what to do, when, and how. The goal was to showcase that harmonizing missions is a feasible and effective operational strategy that can lay the groundwork for a learning health system.

The paper provides concrete examples of how harmonizing these academic missions can be implemented, suggesting that this approach not only improves faculty well-being but also enhances the overall functioning of the department.

Key Takeaways for Implementation

– Establish a “good enough” vision to provide direction without being overly prescriptive.
– Foster frequent and productive interactions among faculty to build a collaborative environment.
– Implement a few simple rules to guide behavior and decision-making without stifling innovation.

The authors argue that such strategies can help in creating a more integrated and efficient academic department, benefiting all stakeholders involved.

Original Article:
Ann Fam Med. 2024 May-Jun;22(3):237-243. doi: 10.1370/afm.3108.

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