Many of my colleagues, former colleagues, people I recruited (as head of something-or-other) have recently left, or made plans to leave (accepted offers) my former department at my former MRU. Many are junior. Some as tenured as you get in a medical school. But there is a consistent story.
These are Good Folks. They are good scientists and good people. They work hard and treat others fairly. blah blah blah. They were also Ph.Ds in a clinical department. Some were clinical PhDs (for example, Psychologists or Physical Therapists). Some were doing clinical research, but from a PhD background. All got paid less, for research than MD's, because baseline salary is a function of degree and billing rates, even if you are 70 or 90 or 100% research. Some didn't care about salary, but about reduced respect. Some were concerned about leadership opportunities and others about access to trainees (a sub-function of the respect issue).
The folks I'm talking about above are all, in their view, "taking a step down". They are not so much changing their allometry of fish:pond size, as they are saying I just can't take the attitude. And attitude describes a lot of it. It's about being treated as a second class citizen because of your degree and your income generating power. It’s about the age-old hierarchy in medical schools, and the jousting for position, fame and glory. It’s about the need for position, fame and glory. And ultimately, it’s about the translation of that need into how you treat people around you.
I know this may be a first world problem to people who can't get jobs. There is something else going on here, though. People leaving good, nay, great jobs. Even in a tight field. Even with funding and jobs and all hard to get. Even within our social microcosm of biomedical research, how you treat people still matters. For some people it is a cost/benefit decision, in that being treated like a human being outweighs the advantages of BSD MRU affiliation.
I did a lot of blogging about my old chair. I put the links in because they are some of my favorite posts. Also, because I am gone and I can laugh about him, now. In particular, this post about people leaving really sums up the problem. People who need to be at a top ranked MRU denigrate the ones who don't want to be there. It may make them feel better. It may make them feel they are defending or preserving the excellence of their MRU. It may be small genitalia size.
I don't think the departure of these folks, good as they are, will be some Very Big Change for my old MRU. People will leave. They will hire new people. No one is irreplaceable. This may not be the kind of thing we (you my beloved readers, me) can change. In fact, it’s quite likely the kind of thing about which we have no impact. What is important is to recognize what you or I want out of life, and where we can get it. This often gets called work/life balance, but that sounds, quite frankly, dangerous and exhausting, the very reasons we want to leave MRU. I think it’s just called being alive, and remembering we get only one life (and if there is more, we surely don't know about it, various myths to the contrary).