As I am getting into my 3rd year of practice as a faculty in Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine, I have begun to wish I had a better framework for success in academic medicine. Currently, almost on a daily basis, I have to answer about 100 emails, decide if I want to be on different committees, develop curricula, give lectures, do research, work clinically, mentor residents/medical students, and have a work-life balance. Does this sound familiar, and at the same time overwhelming?
Recently I read several articles on this very topic and thought maybe I would give some perspective on useful strategies to succeed in academic medicine, get recognized, and still have that healthy work-life balance.
1. Define Your Goals
- S = Specific (clear and easily understood)
- M = Measurable (use a quality metric, quantity, time, and/or cost effectiveness)
- A = Attainable (within your ability and resources)
- R = Realistic (within reach)
- T = Time Bound (can be accomplished in a work cycle)
2. Seek Mentorship
3. Be a Responsible Mentee
4. Develop a Niche
Examples include medical education, curriculum development, procedural skills, and administrative leadership roles. Often your niche will choose you, when you least suspect it. Focusing your interests is instrumental to your success. In the early stages of your career, a niche is more likely to be a broad area. After 3-5 years, with the insight of your mentor, you should begin to narrow in focus.
5. It Is OK to Say No Thank You
6. Need for Additional Professional Development
This is very important, and may not be offered at your institution. Faculty development opportunities should be geared towards enhancing skills related to teaching, curriculum development/assessment, research or leadership. Some specific opportunities we have in the field of EM include:
Make meaningful contacts that are long lasting with others at similar levels of training and similar areas of interest. This enhances visibility and career advancement by enabling you to meet potential future collaborators or mentors. Presenting posters and attending regional and national meetings can assist with this. Additionally, actively participate in committees and interest groups related to your niche and consider volunteering for leadership positions within those groups. This is a great way to develop a reputation external to your institution, which is critical in your promotions process.
8. Transform Educational Activities into Scholarship
Scholarly activity is a spectrum of accomplishments, which can range from personally-developed course materials to peer-reviewed publications. It is important to know what the policies and procedures for promotion and tenure at your institution are. This allows you to know the institutional definitions for scholarship worthy of promotion. Typically, there are 3 arms: Research & Publication, Teaching, and Service. Research & Publications are easy to quantify, while teaching is harder to quantify. Set aside at least one half day a month in your schedule dedicated to how to make activities you are involved in result in scholarship.
An educational/teaching portfolio is a must. Document your teaching, track learner evaluations, curriculum development, and assessments and outcomes of these educational interventions. Keep a list of everything you do and consider publishing innovative ideas.
9. Seek Funding and Other Resources
I have never been taught about resources (funding) necessary for scholarly work, much less where to find this information. It is well known that funding can lead to higher quality of published work and allow for more time for these activities. Your chairman, research director, and mentors can help assist you in identifying funding opportunities. Some funding resources I have found in my reading are:
10. Students are Important
Hospital committees and residents are important, but they are under the banner of the hospital and its CEO. Medical students, however, are under the Dean of the medical school, and the medical school oversees your promotion. Participating in undergraduate medical education events and committees, teaching medical student courses, and mentoring medical students go a long way in your promotion process.
Being a valued member of your faculty and specialty is the ultimate goal of what we are all striving to be in academic medicine. We often get pulled in many directions, but through thoughtful attention and following these 10 tips, you can continue to make significant contributions in your career in a more organized and efficient manner.
- Castiglioni A. Succeeding as a Clinician Educator: Useful Tips and Resources. JGIM 2013 Apr; 28(1): 136–40. PMID: 23549957
- EM:RAP Educators Edition Podcast
- Doran GT, Miller AF, Cunningham JA. There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. Manag Rev. Nov 1981; 70 (11).
- Mattu A, ed. FindingYour Niche in Academic Emergency Medicine. Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors; 2006 Mar; Las Vegas,NV. (podcast)
- Sambunjak D, Straus SE, Marusic A. Mentoring in Academic Medicine: A Systematic Review. JAMA 2006; 297 (19): 2134–6. PMC: 2811592
- Zerzan JT, Hess R, Schur E, Phillips RS, Rigotti N. Making the Most of Mentors: A Guide for Mentees. Acad Med 2009; 84 (1): 140–4. PMID: 19116494