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May 2, 2017

Conflict of Interest Among Medical School Faculty: Achieving a Coherent and Objective Approach

Author Affiliations
  • 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2017;317(17):1731-1732. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.1751

The issue of conflict of interest (COI) relating to professional activities of medical school faculty has been an active topic of debate and discussion for several decades. Not surprisingly, there are widely divergent viewpoints on the nature and consequences of these conflicts and on the benefits and risks of seeking to expose, regulate, and limit them.1-4 Conflicts of interest are universal and inherent to the human experience and could never possibly be eliminated. Precise definition in various domains is critical, and in the area of COI involving academic faculty members, splitting rather than lumping may be valuable. In assessing faculty COI, the scientific community and public must recognize that biomedical faculty engage in a variable mix of primary professional interests—patient care, research, education, and administration—and COI has distinct identities and implications in each domain. To achieve a coherent view, it is necessary to separately analyze these domains and subdomains as related to COI.