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The Culture of Academic Medicine: Faculty Behaviors Impacting the Learning Environment



The culture of academic medical institutions impacts trainee education, among many other faculty and patient outcomes. Disrespectful behavior by faculty is one of the most challenging and common problems that, left unattended, disrupts healthy work and learning environments. Conversely, a respectful environment facilitates learning, creates a sense of safety, and rewards professionalism. The authors developed surveys and an intervention in an effort to better understand and improve climate concerns among health sciences faculty at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), a research-intense, public, academic medical center.


An online "climate survey" of all UC San Diego health sciences faculty was conducted in 2011-2012. A strategic campaign to address the behavioral issues identified in the initial survey was subsequently launched. In 2015, the climate was re-evaluated in order to assess the effectiveness of the intervention.


A total of 478 faculty members (223 women, 235 men, 35 % of faculty) completed the baseline survey, reporting relatively low levels of observed sexual harassment (7 %). However, faculty reported concerning rates of other disruptive behaviors: derogatory comments (29 %), anger outbursts (25 %), and hostile communication (25 %). Women and mid-level faculty were more likely to report these behavioral concerns than men and junior or senior colleagues. Three years after an institutional strategy was initiated, 729 faculty members (50 % of the faculty) completed a follow-up survey. The 2015 survey results indicate significant improvement in numerous climate factors, including overall respectful behaviors, as well as behaviors related to gender.


In order to enhance a culture of respect in the learning environment, institutions can effectively engage academic leaders and faculty at all levels to address disruptive behavior and enhance positive climate factors.

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