Viewpoint: Why every physician should leave an academic footprint

A physician's academic footprint is a way of measuring their impact on the medical field and is an essential part of the profession; however, not many physicians participate as they could, Arthur Lazarus, MD, a member of the editorial board of the American Association for Physician Leadership and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, said in an opinion piece published May 30 on MedPage Today

A 2021 study found that 51% of academic hospital medicine faculty had no published papers and of physicians at academic hospitals, 2.7%  were full professors and 9% were associate professors.  

Academic footprints enrich the medical field and allow physicians greater influence in the evolution of healthcare. "The breadth and depth of this footprint can shape treatment protocols, influence healthcare policies, and inspire the next generation of physicians," Dr. Lazarus wrote.

One key metric of the academic footprint is published research, however, other factors stand to increase it as well. These include involvement in teaching and mentorship; impact on clinical guidelines and policy; innovation in patient care; improving areas of governance, medical leadership, quality improvement and social justice; and using social media and podcasts to reach those outside of a scholarly audience. 

"Whether a doctor chooses to be involved in academia or to focus solely on clinical practice, their work is valuable and necessary," Dr. Lazarus wrote. "Either way, leaving a significant footprint should be a goal for every physician, just as reducing our carbon footprint is a collective responsibility. Both are about making a positive difference — in the world and in the field of medicine."

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