Characteristics of Interim Deans at U.S. Medical Schools: Implications for Institutions and Individuals

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Abstract

Purpose

To provide a baseline, descriptive understanding of individuals serving as interim deans at U.S. medical schools. Over the past quarter century, roughly 9% to 16% of all medical school deans were serving as interim leaders. This research reviews demographic characteristics, how long they served, and the impact of having served on one’s likelihood of serving as a permanent dean.

Method

The Association of American Medical Colleges’ Council of Deans national database was the data source for this study. The authors reviewed counts and information by year for academic years 1989–1990 through 2014–2015 to yield a snapshot of interim dean counts. The authors analyzed data by demographic characteristics—namely, sex, race/ethnicity, degree, specialty, and years of service—and compared data with those of permanent deans. Descriptive statistics are presented.

Results

Overall, between 14 and 27 individuals served as interim deans during each academic year in this study (9%–16% of all unique individuals with a dean or interim dean appointment). Of all individuals serving as interim deans in this time frame, 88% were men (228/259) and 86% were white (222/259). The average time in the interim dean role was roughly 13 months, and a high percentage went on to serve as permanent deans (ranging from 15% to 63%).

Conclusions

The results of this study add detail to the collective understanding of these leaders in medical schools. The authors discuss how individuals and institutions can facilitate success and preparedness for an interim dean appointment.

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