American Surgical Association

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Incentivizing Academic Productivity of Surgery Faculty Members Through an Academic RVU System
Scott A. LeMaire, Barbara W. Trautner*, Susan Y. Green*, Qianzi Zhang*, William E. Fisher*, Todd K. Rosengart
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

OBJECTIVES: Academic faculty are expected to perform education and research activities that are often not incentivized or financially compensated. The objective of this report is to describe a new academic RVU (aRVU) scoring system linked to faculty compensation and analyze its association with academic productivity.
METHODS: We launched an online, self-reporting aRVU system in 2015 to document and incentivize the academic productivity of our faculty. The system captured weighted scores (by department priority; inversely proportional to rank) for 65 research, education, innovation, academic service, and peer review activities. Annually, aRVU scores were rank-aggregated and bonuses were distributed to faculty accordingly (top 10%: $10,000; top 33%: $5,000; top 50%: $2,500). We now compare pre-aRVU (2014) to current (2016) achievement metrics.
RESULTS: Since 2015, annual aRVU bonuses totaling $714,000 were awarded to 59 faculty members. aRVU implementation was associated with significant increases in seven key departmental academic achievement metrics (Table): NIH funding (increase: 467%), clinical trials (188%), total research funding (83%), presentations (49%), editorial leadership positions (48%), academic society committee participation (32%), and publications (14%).
CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of an aRVU system in our department was associated with increases in departmental academic productivity. Unrelated factors may have contributed to these increases, but an aRVU program may represent an important mechanism to track and incentivize academic productivity in surgery departments.

Annual departmental academic productivity metrics before (2014) and after (2016) aRVU implementation
Metric20142016 (% increase)P-value
Research: Total NIH funding$0.6M$3.4M (467%)<0.001
Research: Active clinical trials823 (188%)0.002
Research: Total research funding$4.6M$8.4M (83%)<0.001
Research: Active grants5873 (26%)0.1
Research: Publications390446 (14%)0.02
Education: Presentations579862 (49%)<0.001
Innovation: Patents submitted2031 (55%)0.09
Academic Service: Academic society committee participation (total positions)226298 (32%)<0.001
Peer Review: Editorial boards/editorships (total positions)5074 (48%)0.01

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