Background: Chairpersons of surgery departments are key stakeholders and role models and leaders of research in academic medical institutions. However, the characteristics of surgical chairpersons are understudied. This study aimed to investigate the association between the personal academic achievement of a surgical chairperson and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding of the department. Methods: We calculated the Hirsch index (H-index), a measure of research productivity, for chairpersons of surgery of the top 90 research medical schools that were ranked by U.S. News &World Report. Specialty training, y as chairperson, location, and NIH institutional and department funding were analyzed. Nonparametric tests and linear regression methods were used to compare the different groups. Results: Of the 90 chairpersons, 20 positions for chairs (22%) are either recent (<1 y) or unfilled (n = 6). Only 3% of all chairpersons are women, and the median H-index for the chairpersons is 20 (Interquartile range 14-27) with a median 101 publications with 14 cites per publication. Median surgery-specific NIH funding in 2011 was $1.7 million (Interquartile range $721,042-5,085,305). The chairperson's H-index was exponentially associated with department funding in multivariate models adjusting for institution rank, except when the H-index was extreme (<4 or >49) (coefficient 0.32, P = 0.02). Conclusions: The research productivity of a chairperson is the only personal attribute of those studied that is associated with the departmental NIH funding. This suggests the important role an academically productive surgical leader may play as a champion for the academic success of the department.
- Academic achievement
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