Development of an academic RVU (aRVU) system to promote pediatric surgical academic productivity

Published:September 19, 2021DOI:



      Improvements in patient care are directly affected by scientific discovery, and surgeons have historically played a vital role in this process. However, increasing clinical demands and incentivization for pure clinical productivity present challenges for promoting academic productivity. The objective of this work was to analyze the effects of adding an academic relative value unit (aRVU) scoring system to an existing work RVU (wRVU)-based incentivization plan on academic productivity in a Department of Pediatric Surgery.


      Prior to 2012, incentive bonuses in our Department were mainly based on clinical wRVU activities. A weighted scoring system for 30 specific aRVUs was established in 2012. Incentivization for wRVUs vs. aRVUs was based on the clinical full-time equivalent (cFTE) of each faculty member. Academic activities incentivized included grant submissions/funding, peer reviewed publications, national presentations, Study Section participation, education and mentoring activities, receipt of research or teaching awards, initiation of Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocols, new academic society committee memberships/chairpersons, and patents. Academic progress was analyzed from 2012 to 2020.


      During the study period, annual external federal funding increased from $750,168 to $5,768,243 (7.7-fold increase); annual peer-reviewed publications increased from 24 to 140 (5.8-fold increase); annual national presentations accepted for oral/poster presentations nearly doubled; and faculty members and their trainees received 41 competitive research awards including 8 American Pediatric Surgical Association Awards, 9 American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Surgery Awards, and 3 American College of Surgeons Awards. During the same study period, wRVUs increased by 8%.


      Incentivization based on the addition of an aRVU system to a pre-existing wRVU system was associated with a significant increase in academic productivity, while still maintaining clinical productivity. Implementing an aRVU program is an important means of increasing academic productivity in Pediatric and other Surgery Departments.



      aRVU (Academic RVU), cFTE (Clinical full-time equivalent), wRVU (work RVU)
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