Background: Research is needed to improve understanding of work-life integration issues in academic medicine and to guide the implementation of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists (FRCS), a national initiative offering financial support to physician-scientists facing caregiving challenges. Materials and Methods: In 2018, as part of a prospective program evaluation, the authors conducted a qualitative study to examine FRCS program participants' initial impressions, solicit descriptions of their career and caregiving experiences, and inquire how such factors might influence their professional advancement. The authors invited all 33 awardees who had been granted FRCS funding in the first year of the program to participate in the study, of whom 28 agreed to complete an interview. Analysts evaluated de-identified transcripts and explicated the data using a thematic analysis approach. Results: While participants described aspects of a culture that harbor stigma against caregivers and impede satisfactory work-life integration, they also perceived an optimistic cultural shift taking place as a result of programs like the FRCS. Their comments indicated that the FRCS has the potential to influence culture if institutional leadership simultaneously fosters a community that validates individuals both as caregivers and as scientists. Conclusions: Insights garnered from this qualitative study suggest that there is a pressing need for institutional leaders to implement programs that can foster awareness and normalization of caregiving challenges. In addition to providing funding and other tangible resources, interventions should strive to reinforce a broader culture that affirms the presence of work-life integration challenges and openly embraces solutions.
- academic medicine
- career development