People Leaving My Old-MRU

Apr 28 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

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).

6 responses so far

  • Dave says:

    They will hire new people.

    Perhaps, but unlikely they will replace the PhDs with PhDs. The drive for clinical revenue is too powerful, so clinical departments with good basic research programs are a dying breed.

    • potnia theron says:

      actually they have hired *some* PhDs. Some of these are clinical PhDs (pyschologists, Phys Therapists, SLPs, OTs). These are people who do have a PhD, did a thesis, but also did considerable clinical work. Their theses are not what a basic science PhD necessarily would find acceptable, but they've done more than an MD or a DDS would have done.

      • Dave says:

        MDs with PhDs are not the same, since unless their research is 100% funded - which is unlikely in this climate - they will be used to generate clinical revenue. Hence why they were hired. Many of them may not even realize this yet, but they will once their grant funds dry up.

        • potnia theron says:

          I meant people who are *NOT* MDs but PhDs, but their PhD is explicitly a clinical degree, and part of a license to practice. These folks are often 2nd class citizens, if not 3rd class. See most recent post.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    PhDs in clinical departments being treated like dirt was definitely a thing at my previous institution. I heard complaints about it frequently.

    I was in a basic research department, and one of my motivations for moving was the dean's increasingly open hostility towards the basic research departments, which were no longer bringing in the $$ like they were back during the doubling. It's hard to be comfortable in your work environment when you feel like you have a big target painted on your back...

  • Requin says:

    Off topic (a bit) - I followed the links in this post to one of your posts I had somehow missed - the one about what do you own (itself a link from a post on crap your former chair said). It seemed really important but not something that people talk about much, or recommend that you do. So if one doesn't get any 'credit' from the department or the university for mentoring junior colleagues, the karmic credit will have to do. Seeing it in black and white in your post reminds me that it is the right thing to do, regardless of credit.

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