Purpose: To identify existing organizations that recognize faculty members' excellence as educators (Academies) in the United States, and describe the organizations' characteristics. Method: A 31-item questionnaire inquiring about Academies or equivalent programs was sent to deans of medical education at all 125 U.S. medical schools in February of 2003. Variables examined were general Academy characteristics such as membership selection criteria, goals, benefits of membership, and budget, as well as, estimates of prestige of-membership and influence on recruiting new and current faculty to educational activities. Results: Twenty of 97 (21%) respondents reported an implemented Academy or equivalent program (eight begun prior to 2000 and 11 subsequently). Most Academies (75%) did not "cap" membership size, and most (65%) offered lifetime membership. Budgets ranged from $0 to more than $100,000 per year. Full-time faculty status (100%) and involvement in direct undergraduate teaching (95%) affected eligibility the most. Nominations for membership most often came from department or section chairs (89%) and from peers (74%), and learners were involved in the final selection process at 18 of the Academies. Benefits of membership included networking/collaboration, school-wide recognition, and mentoring for educational skills development. The benefit of protected time was offered at only three institutions and was associated with having a larger budget. Respondents believe Academies positively influence faculty participation in educational activities. Conclusions: Academies are formal organizations recognizing faculty contributions to medical education, and they are increasing in number. They offer important benefits to faculty members and the educational mission of an academic medical center.
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