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Beryl Lieff Benderly , ,

Tenure-track hiring falls at U.S. medical schools

The percentage of new faculty hired on the tenure track at U.S. academic medical centers and medical schools has been falling steadily for almost a quarter of a century, according to a report out this month from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Only a quarter of new clinical faculty hired in 2009 were on the tenure track, as opposed to 46 percent in 1984.

Seven of the country’s 126 accredited medical schools have no tenure at all, and eight more offer it only in basic science, rather than clinical, positions. In the rest of the schools, including recently established ones, the tenure system remains “embedded,” the report finds. Even so, tenure is now available to fewer and fewer potential medical school professors. For years, the absolute number of new hires on the tenure track continued to rise despite the decline in their percentage of total new faculty because of the drastic growth of faculties overall. However, this trend plateaued in 2003.

One figure has been virtually unchanged: The number of men in tenure track positions exceeded that of tenure-track women by eight percentage points in 1984 and in 2009. “Future research could assess the personal significance of tenure to women, as tenured positions may become more scarce for this subgroup of faculty,” the report’s authors write.

Given current trends, the report concludes, “a continual decrease in the overall percentage of faculty in tenured or tenure-eligible positions” appears likely.

See also: the March 6, 2009, Science Careers article, Redefining Tenure at Medical Schools.