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Climbing the Ladder: How Hospitalists Can Overcome Barriers in Academic Productivity

Written by: Lanna Felde, MD
Published on: Nov 26, 2021

Multiracial medical team having a meeting
Photo credit: Shutterstock

This week, the Journal of Hospital Medicine returned from a summer hiatus with a #JHMChat about academic productivity and promotion.

As recently discussed in our September issue by Drs. Andrew Sumarsono and Neil Keshvani, et al, the median number of publications for hospitalists at academic medical centers is zero. I’ll say that one more time: ZERO! Unsurprisingly, a lack of publications was found to correlate with a low rate of promotion among hospitalists. We invited Dr. Avital O’Glasser, a hospitalist at Oregon Health Sciences University, as our special guest as we explored practical solutions to enhance academic productivity among hospitalists, an area that she herself has ironically, published on.

Many participants shared their personal struggles with getting published. Some hospitalists have a hard time generating inertia on the front end of a project but can drive it over the finish line. Others are productive at the idea-generating stage but grind to a halt toward the end as they fumble with formatting requirements and responding to reviewers’ comments.


Many hospitalists bemoaned never having any formal training in statistics or study design. Dr. Jess Dreicer highlighted that there are no hard deadlines for most publications. Dr. Keshvani pointed out that science is a team sport, and it is easier to hold yourself accountable when you are collaborating in a group. Dr. Sumarsono shared his personal philosophy: never be the reason a project stalls.



Another hot topic was the value placed on other activities like medical education and hospital leadership roles as institutions consider individuals for promotion. Dr. Vinny Arora, who is on the promotions committee at the University of Chicago, reported that the key is showing the impact of your roles. Work that is internally impactful at one’s institution can gain outside recognition through national meetings, presentations, and social media.


So how can we improve? There was widespread consensus about some of the factors that hospital medicine divisions need to work on, including mentorship, funding for protected time, and hired statistical support.

Several participants praised the benefits of mentorship, including peer mentorship. Cross-departmental or cross-institutional relationships are key. Several participants brought up structured approaches to building mentorship structures. Dr. Erin Shaughnessy of the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggested the use of career development committees (CDCs) to guide junior hospitalists. Dr. Sonya Tang Gridwood brought up scholarly writing accountability groups (SWAG).




Dr. Ndidi Unaka highlighted that division leaders should know what their hospitalists’ interests are and work to align those interests with opportunities for scholarly work. Dr. O’Glasser also emphasized the importance of helping junior faculty explore their interests early in their hospitalist career.




There are many ways to publish, even through traditional journals. For example, in addition to original research, the Journal of Hospital Medicine publishes a variety or article types that allow authors to share learnings and viewpoints including: Leadership and Professional Development, Clinical Case Conundrums, Things We Do For No Reason™, and Point-Counterpoint.

We all face barriers to academic productivity. However, as Dr. Sumarsono pointed out, just like Hospital Medicine is the hub of inpatient medicine, we are also poised to be the hub of inpatient research. This #JHMChat was packed full of practical approaches to increase academic productivity.


If you missed this month’s #JHMChat, not to worry! We will be back again on October 11th at 9 p.m. ET. We hope you’ll join us! Don’t know how to participate? Check out directions here.

About the Author: Lanna Felde, MD

Lanna Felde, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Hospital Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Felde earned her medical degree and a concurrent master’s degree in public health at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. She completed her residency in internal medicine at UT Southwestern and joined their faculty in 2018. Dr. Felde is the Director of UTSW’s Hospital Medicine Elective for Internal Medicine Residents and Chair of the Communications Committee for the Division of Hospital Medicine. Her interests include hospital best practices, social determinants of health, and medical education utilizing digital media.

This article was originally published by the Journal of Hospital Medicine.