Academic faculty experience barriers to career development and promotion. In 1996, Harvard Medical School (HMS) initiated an intramural junior faculty fellowship to address these obstacles. The authors sought to understand whether receiving a fellowship was associated with more rapid academic promotion and retention.
Junior faculty fellowship recipients and all other instructor and assistant professors at HMS between 1996 and 2011 were identified. Using propensity score modeling, the authors created a matched comparison group for the fellowship recipients based on educational background, training, academic rank, department, hospital affiliation, and demographics. Time to promotion and time to leaving were assessed by Kaplan-Meier curves.
A total of 622 junior faculty received fellowships. Faculty who received fellowships while instructors (n = 480) had shorter times to promotion to assistant professor (P < .0001) and longer retention times (P < .0001) than matched controls. There were no significant differences in time to promotion for assistant professors who received fellowships (n = 142) compared with matched controls, but assistant professor fellowship recipients were significantly more likely to remain longer on the faculty (P = .0005). Women instructors advanced more quickly than matched controls, while male instructors' rates of promotions did not differ.
Fellowships to support junior faculty were associated with shorter times to promotion for instructors and more sustained faculty retention for both instructors and assistant professors. This suggests that relatively small amounts of funding early in faculty careers can play a critical role in supporting academic advancement and retention.