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June 8, 2017

Sharpen Your Faculties: Program Helps Med Faculty Balance Duties

The following has been excerpted from the Summer 2017 Pitt Med magazine.

Iain Scott, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, pauses while appetizers are shared around a table at Soba, a restaurant in Shadyside.

“Did you always think you were going to end up in a position of leadership, or did you fall into it?” he asks, addressing Mark Gladwin, chair of the Department of Medicine, who is sitting at the head of the table.

Assistant professors Nathaniel Weathington and Cynthia St. Hilaire nod with interest.

Gladwin laughs and describes the anxiety he used to experience making presentations during his first leadership role as chief resident at Oregon Health and Science University.

“Over time, as confidence grows, it gets easier. You do have to like leadership. You fill vacuums. You fix things,” Gladwin says.

Setting up the informal get together was actually an “assignment” for the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Career Mentoring Program (CaMP), which creates contemplative space for junior faculty in the School of Medicine. The assistant professors were charged with meeting their department chairs to ask burning questions, like: How do they delegate? What happens when they have to discipline a team member? And how do they balance their personal and professional lives?

Ora Weisz, associate dean for faculty development at the School of Medicine and assistant vice chancellor for faculty excellence in the Schools of Health Sciences, notes that no one even uttered the word “mentor” when she was a junior faculty member.

So four years ago, Weisz started CaMP with professors Ann Thompson, vice dean; Jennifer Woodward, associate provost; and Doris Rubio, director of the Data Center at the Center for Research on Health Care. (The organizing committee has since added Gabriella Gosman, vice chair for education for obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, and Lori Shutter, vice chair of education for critical care medicine.) CaMP is for faculty members in their second year.

Most scientists didn’t learn how to run a lab while they were grad students or fellows. But once they are hired as faculty, in addition to pursuing research, teaching and perhaps seeing patients, they are expected to write grants, balance budgets and manage employees.

Gladwin compares it to suddenly becoming a small-business owner. “You have venture capital in your program, and you have to be self-sustainable,” he says. The program helps junior faculty prepare themselves for these challenges.

It’s a juggling act, says Weisz: “It takes about three years to figure out how you should be spending your time. When I was working on my lecture, I felt like I should be in the lab. When I was in the lab, I felt like I should be writing a grant.”

With the series, organizers have strived to create a sense of community and involvement, which can be particularly important for the retention of women and faculty from underrepresented groups.

Weisz notes that “breaking down barriers is really critical to maintaining innovation in research. Those people who can cross boundaries can make the new sparks that lead research forward.”

Learn more about CaMP and other faculty development programs in the School of Medicine by visiting the Office of Faculty Affairs’ website.

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