Harmonizing the Tripartite Mission in Academic Family Medicine: A Longitudinal Case Example

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Academic practices and departments are defined by a tripartite mission of care, education, and research, conceived as being mutually reinforcing. But in practice, academic faculty have often experienced these 3 missions as competing rather than complementary priorities. This siloed approach has interfered with innovation as a learning health system in which the tripartite missions reinforce each other in practical ways. This paper presents a longitudinal case example of harmonizing academic missions in a large family medicine department so that missions and people interact in mutually beneficial ways to create value for patients, learners, and faculty. We describe specific experiences, implementation, and examples of harmonizing missions as a feasible strategy and culture. “Harmonized” means that no one mission subordinates or drives out the others; each mission informs and strengthens the others (quickly in practice) while faculty experience the triparate mission as a coherent whole faculty job. Because an academic department is a complex system of work and relation-ships, concepts for leading a complex adaptive system were employed: (1) a “good enough” vision, (2) frequent and productive interactions, and (3) a few simple rules. These helped people harmonize their work without telling them exactly what to do, when, and how. Our goal here is to highlight concrete examples of harmonizing missions as a feasible operating method, suggesting ways it builds a foundation for a learning health system and potentially improving faculty well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-243
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024, Annals of Family Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved.


  • academic medical center
  • academic medical training
  • building scholarship capacity
  • faculty morale
  • harmonizing academic missions
  • health equity
  • implementation science
  • learning health system
  • tripartite mission

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Harmonizing the Tripartite Mission in Academic Family Medicine: A Longitudinal Case Example'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this