Purpose. To analyze the growth, research activities, and academic status of PhD faculty in U. S. medical school clinical departments between 1981 and 1999. Method. Full-time U.S. medical school faculty who had PhDs and appointments in clinical departments in 1981 and 1999 and junior PhD faculty who became assistant professors between 1981 and 1990 were selected from the Faculty Roster System of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Their research activities and academic statuses were compared with those of MD or MD/PhD faculty in clinical departments or PhD faculty in basic science departments in the same years. Results. The number of PhD faculty in clinical departments now exceeds the number of PhD faculty in basic science departments. PhD faculty in clinical departments come from diverse research backgrounds, contribute substantially to the research intensity of their institutions, and are more likely than their counterparts in basic science departments to become involved in research involving human participants or human tissues. PhD faculty in clinical departments are less likely than their counterparts in basic science departments, but are as likely as physicians in clinical departments, to be rewarded with academic promotion. They are less likely than their physician colleagues to be promoted in research-intensive departments such as departments of medicine and at top 20 research-intensive schools. Conclusions. The burgeoning career opportunities for PhD faculty in clinical departments should be reflected in the course work, mentorship, and potential thesis topics of PhD training programs. In lieu of tenure, research-intensive medical schools should develop alternative career tracks providing somewhat greater job stability for these faculty.
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