Background: For more than two decades, national career development programs (CDPs) have addressed underrepresentation of women faculty in academic medicine through career and leadership curricula. We evaluated CDP participation impact on retention. Methods: We used Association of American Medical Colleges data to compare 3268 women attending CDPs from 1988 to 2008 with 17,834 women and 40,319 men nonparticipant faculty similar to CDP participants in degree, academic rank, first year of appointment in rank, and home institution. Measuring from first year in rank to departure from last position held or December 2009 (study end date), we used Kaplan-Meier curves; Cox survival analysis adjusted for age, degree, tenure, and department; and 10-year rates to compare retention. Results: CDP participants were significantly less likely to leave academic medicine than their peers for up to 8 years after appointment as Assistant and Associate Professors. Full Professor participants were significantly less likely to leave than non-CDP women. Men left less often than non-CDP women at every rank. Participants attending more than one CDP left less often than those attending one, but results varied by rank. Patterns of switching institutions after 10 years varied by rank; CDP participants switched significantly less often than men at Assistant and Associate Professor levels and significantly less often than non-CDP women among Assistant Professors. Full Professors switched at equal rates. Conclusion: National CDPs appear to offer retention advantage to women faculty, with implications for faculty performance and capacity building within academic medicine. Intervals of retention advantage for CDP participants suggest vulnerable periods for intervention.
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