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Open Access Research article

Academic career in medicine – requirements and conditions for successful advancement in Switzerland

Barbara Buddeberg-Fischer*, Martina Stamm and Claus Buddeberg

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychosocial Medicine, Zurich University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:70  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-70

Published: 29 April 2009

Abstract

Background

Within the framework of a prospective cohort study of Swiss medical school graduates a sample of young physicians aspiring to an academic career were surveyed on their career support and barriers experienced up to their sixth year of postgraduate training.

Methods

Thirty-one junior academics took part in semi-structured telephone interviews in 2007. The interview guideline focused on career paths to date, career support and barriers experienced, and recommendations for junior and senior academics. The qualitatively assessed data were evaluated according to Mayring's content analysis. Furthermore, quantitatively gained data from the total cohort sample on person- and career-related characteristics were analyzed in regard to differences between the junior academics and cohort doctors who aspire to another career in medicine.

Results

Junior academics differ in terms of instrumentality as a person-related factor, and in terms of intrinsic career motivation and mentoring as career-related factors from cohort doctors who follow other career paths in medicine; they also show higher scores in the Career-Success Scale. Four types of career path could be identified in junior academics: (1) focus on basic sciences, (2) strong focus on research (PhD programs) followed by clinical training, (3) one to two years in research followed by clinical training, (4) clinical training and research in parallel. The interview material revealed the following categories of career-supporting experience: making oneself out as a proactive junior physician, research resources provided by superior staff, and social network; statements concerning career barriers encompassed interference between clinical training and research activities, insufficient research coaching, and personality related barriers. Recommendations for junior academics focused on mentoring and professional networking, for senior academics on interest in human resource development and being role models.

Conclusion

The conditions for an academic career in medicine in Switzerland appear to be difficult especially for those physicians combining research with clinical work. For a successful academic career it seems crucial to start with research activities right after graduation, and take up clinical training later in the career. Furthermore, special mentoring programs for junior academics should be implemented at all medical schools to give trainees more goal-oriented guidance in their career.