Purpose: Academies of medical educators can be defined as formal organizations of academic teaching faculty recognized for excellence in their contributions to their school's education mission and who, as a group, serve specific needs of the institution. The authors studied the characteristics of academies, including the processes for admission, selection, and retention of academy members; the types of faculty who are academy members; program goals; benefits offered by academies to the individual and to the institution; funding sources and amounts; and the rapid increase in academies since 2003. Method: In 2008, the authors sent an online questionnaire to 127 U.S. medical schools. Responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics. To determine differences between groups, multivariate analysis of variance was performed. Correlation analysis (Pearson r) was used to identify association between variables. Effect size was determined using eta squared (η). Results: Thirty-six of the 122 responding schools (96% response rate) reported having academies; 21 schools had initiated academies since 2003, and 33 schools were planning or considering academies. There was a statistically significant difference between academies established before 2004 and in 2004 regarding benefits offered to individuals, membership terms and maintenance requirements, and goals. Conclusions: Rogers' theory of the diffusion of innovation may explain the recent spread of academies. When beginning or reexamining existing academy programs, institutions should consider goals, application process, benefits offered to members as well as the institution, expendable resources, and means of support, because the final product depends on the choices made at the beginning.
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