Strengthening the clinical academic pathway: a systematic review of interventions to support clinical academic careers for doctors and dentists

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Objective Evaluate existing evidence on interventions intended to increase recruitment, retention and career progression within clinical academic (CA) careers, including a focus on addressing inequalities. Design Systematic review. Data sources Medline, Embase, Cochrane Controlled Register of Trials, PsycINFO and Education Resource Information Center searched October 2019. Study selection Eligible studies included qualified doctors, dentists and/or those with a supervisory role. Outcomes were defined by studies and related to success rates of joining or continuing within a CA career. Data extraction and synthesis Abstract screening was supported by machine learning software. Full-text screening was performed in duplicate, and study quality was assessed. Narrative synthesis of quantitative data was performed. Qualitative data were thematically analysed. Results 148 studies examined interventions; of which 28 were included in the quantitative synthesis, 17 in the qualitative synthesis and 2 in both. Studies lacked methodological rigour and/or were hindered by incomplete reporting. Most were from North America. No study included in the syntheses evaluated interventions aimed at CA dentists. Most quantitative evidence was from multifaceted training programmes. These may increase recruitment, but findings were less clear for retention and other outcomes. Qualitative studies reported benefits of supportive relationships, including peers and senior mentors. Protected time for research helped manage competing demands on CAs. Committed and experienced staff were seen as key facilitators of programme success. Respondents identified several other factors at a programme, organisational or national level which acted as facilitators or barriers to success. Few studies reported on the effects of interventions specific to women or minority groups. Conclusions Existing research is limited by rigour and reporting. Better evaluation of future interventions, particularly those intended to address inequalities, is required. Within the limits of the evidence, comprehensive multifaceted programmes of training, including protected time, relational and support aspects, appear most successful in promoting CA careers. Systematic review registration Open Science Framework:

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere060281
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2022.

Funding Information:
Mentorship could help address some of the financial challenges for junior CAs, through supporting grant application writing, helping with bridging funds or providing research and administrative staff support.


  • EDUCATION & TRAINING (see Medical Education & Training)

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