Recruiting Faculty to Medical Schools, or “The Myth of Fingerprints,” with apologies to Paul Simon
There is no doubt about it
It was the myth of fingerprints
And I’ve seen them all and man
they’re all the same.
All around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints 1986
Recruiting members of recent generations of academic physicians can be something of a shock for older medical school chairs and deans. Baby Boomers seem especially taken aback by Millennials’ talk of “work-life balance” and “family-friendly” work environments because their elders’ memories are of sleep deprivation, missed recitals and soccer games due to patient crises, and the real magic of making a baby when it is difficult to remember any time spent with a spouse.
Truth is every generation is a product of the particular era of history in which its members came of age. What makes Millennials so conspicuous in academic medicine is that they are bringing their distinctive attributes to an environment undergoing large and likely lasting changes that prompt and should prompt careful consideration of a career in academic medicine.
And the reactions of chairs and deans are something more than nostalgia for some bygone era when if resources were more abundant and the landscape of medical education more settled, more was asked of would-be physician-scholars. The “more” often came out of marriages and families. Indeed, many of the younger generation are products of those times and they have first-hand knowledge of the costs of a parent’s career in academic medicine. Evidence for this intimate awareness can be had in –
• deferral of marriage and child-rearing until the late 20s, 30s and even 40s;
• experiencing divorces and the “blending” of families from the offspring of one or both divorced parent/s;
• what some have termed the narcissism of Millennials but what a more kindly view sees as a measure of skepticism about the permanence and durability of human relations and, consequently, a greater reliance on self;
• the Great Recession and the havoc it wrought on individual and family savings and investments; and
• much-increased cynicism about fundamental public institutions such as religion, government, and not-for-profit organizations.
Couple these personal matters with the reality that academic medicine is in the midst of changes every bit as profound as anything in the recent past, and it becomes at least a bit easier to understand young peoples’ caution.
Moreover, the landscape of the field is by no means settled, so the newly-minted M.D. can be forgiven for at least asking questions that may have never been posed to a potential employer a generation past or may well have been scoffed at.
At the same time, it is always unwise to paint any generation with a single brush. The Millennials have their share of idealistic and gifted individuals who see the practice and the teaching of medicine as something very noble, something worthy of sacrifice. So much as the well-known TV host in Paul Simon’s tune is wrong to contend all fingerprints are the same, it is a tad risky to assume the newest generation of physician academicians are all the same.