Faculty retirements' impacts on the anatomy educator shortage

Academic Article


  • Medical education has been experiencing a shortage of anatomy educators since as early as the 1960s. Causality for the shortage has been attributed to a variety of factors including lack of new trainees, decreased numbers of training programs, and changes in medical and graduate biomedical education. However, insight into retirement intentions, a key driver of faculty turnover, has yet to be investigated. With the mean age of the anatomy educator population on the rise, knowledge of the retirement intentions of current educators is essential to fully understanding the severity of the anatomy educator shortage. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the retirement intentions of current anatomy educators and their effects on the anatomy educator workforce. METHODS: Surveys were distributed to: 1) chairs/department heads to inquire about job postings on AAA's website from 2018-2020 (Job Posting Survey) and 2) the AAA membership through Anatomy Connected to explore retirement intentions (Retirement Intentions Survey). Survey responses were collected through Qualtrics XM. The Job Posting Survey determined reasons for posting the job and the length of time to fill the vacancy. Respondents of the Retirement Intentions Survey were grouped into 'less than 55 years of age' and '55 years and older' to determine age effects on retirement factors and timelines. The impact of SARS-COVID-19 on retirement intentions was also investigated. RESULTS: For the Job Posting Survey, out of 252 unique job listings 42 responses were returned (16.7%). The majority of job postings were to fill an open position due to faculty retirement (36%), followed by faculty relocating/sabbatical/new responsibilities (31%), and a brand-new position (24%). More than half of the open positions were filled within 1-6 months; and 11 positions were left unfiled. One hundred ten anatomy educators completed The Retirement Intentions Survey (5.1%). Of these, 72 were 'less than 55 years of age' and 38 were '55 years and older.' All but two of those '55 years and older' intend to retire in less than 10 years, while 23 intend to retire in 5 years or less. Assuming the data holds for the greater anatomy educator population, extrapolation shows that 198 out of 325 regular AAA members who are '55 years and older' are expected to retire in the next 5 years. Among both age groups, the factors driving retirement intentions were overwhelmingly age and finances, closely followed by job satisfaction and family. Unlike those in the younger age group, those '55 years and older' commonly mentioned a desire to do other things (travel, enjoy family, etc.) and health as strong drivers of retirement. The ongoing SARS-COVID-19 pandemic had minimal to no effect on respondents' retirement intentions. CONCLUSION: Anatomy educators are increasingly seeking retirement, particularly within the next 5 years, due to age and financial stability, outside of SARS-COVID-19 impacts. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPLICATION: This study reveals that within 5 years, the retirement of anatomy educators will outpace the 22 new PhD graduates per year. Importantly, this does not account for the creation of new positions, further stressing medical education.
  • Published In

  • The FASEB Journal  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Edwards D; Meyer E; Brooks W; Wilson A
  • Volume

  • 36