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Original Article
June 2013

The Modern Surgery Department Chairman: The Job Description as Identified by Chairmen

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana.

JAMA Surg. 2013;148(6):511-515. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2013.1230
Abstract

Importance The role of the chairman of a surgery department is critical in academic surgery. However, little is known about the variability of job responsibilities.

Objective To evaluate chairmen's responsibilities, methods of support, determinants of job performance success, and concerns.

Design Internet-based survey.

Setting Electronic survey system.

Participants Seventy-two chairmen.

Main Outcomes and Measures Survey data on job responsibilities, methods of support, determinants of job performance success, and concerns.

Results Of 168 chairmen who received the survey, 72 (43%) responded. The mean age of chairmen was 57 years (range, 44-78 years). Of 72 chairmen who responded, 69 (96%) were men, 67 (93%) were white, 65 (90%) were professors, 11 (15%) held a previous chair, 35 (49%) have advanced degrees, and 19 (26%) are program directors. Respondents are responsible for an average of 8.7 divisions, 60 (83%) spent 1 to 10 hours per week in the clinic, 45 (63%) performed surgery 1 to 10 hours per week, 54 (75%) took less than 6 call days per month, 44 (61%) published 1 to 6 papers per year and attended a mean (SD) of 4.3 (1.7) essential meetings per year, and 48 (67%) took 1 to 3 weeks of vacation annually. Chair salary support includes (from least to most) faculty tax, grants, endowment, school, and hospital. Compensation correlates with age, additional degree, specialty, location, contract, and tenure but not clinical hours. Reported compensation was consistent with data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, but 24 (33%) felt undercompensated. Incentives for job performance were given for clinical productivity (34 chairmen [47%]), department performance (50 [70%]), institutional performance (27 [38%]), and personal accomplishment (14 [19%]). Of 72 chairmen, 30 (42%) were concerned about personal liability related to the job, 15 (21%) had purchased personal liability insurance, and 20 (28%) have defended a lawsuit related to nonclinical responsibilities.

Conclusions and Relevance Academic surgery department chairmen have a wide array of responsibilities that have changed from historic standards. Success in the role of chairman may improve by appreciating the responsibilities, time allocation, methods of support, and concerns of other chairmen.

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