Roles and Responsibilities of Chief Medical Officers in Member Organizations of the Association of American Medical Colleges

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To explore the roles of physician leaders who hold titles such as chief medical officer (CMO), vice president for medical affairs, and vice dean for clinical affairs in Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) member organizations, and to identify critical success factors for these positions.


An Internet-based survey was submitted to 340 physician leaders in 281 AAMC member institutions. The survey posed questions regarding demographics, titles, reporting relationships, time commitments, scope of responsibility, accomplishments, and challenges related to recipients' positions, among other questions.


Responses were received from 154 physicians representing 139 institutions (response rates 45% and 49%, respectively). Forty-nine percent of these positions had existed for 10 years or less. The most common administrative title was CMO (48%). Eighty-five percent of these individuals reported directly to the dean or CEO of their organization. The majority of administrative effort involved quality and safety (31%), coordination of clinical care (21%), and graduate medical education (9%). The remainder (39%) encompassed a broad portfolio of responsibilities ranging from information technology (6%) to nursing services (2%). Keys to job success included personal stature and relationships, clear definition of responsibilities, and the commitments of the senior administration to the position.


Teaching hospitals and medical schools are creating or strengthening positions for physician leaders, most commonly called CMOs. CMOs' work involves numerous activities beyond the traditional areas of quality and safety. The effectiveness of these positions requires clear definition of the role throughout the organization and strong, evident support from senior executives in the organization.

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