One of the goals of the Academic Advancement Committee is to create the structure and environment to promote surgeon mentoring, by establishing a mentoring program based on best practices that fosters and advances personal, professional, and organizational growth. In thinking about writing this blog, I thought about my own personal and professional growth over the last year. The end of a calendar year is frequently a time for reflection—what have I accomplished over the last year? What do I hope to accomplish in the new year? In the last year, I reached a major career milestone for an academic surgeon; I completed my promotion and tenure (P&T) packet and was promoted to associate professor with tenure. In the hours and days I spent pouring over my packet, I was nostalgic as I read through the many student and resident names whom I have mentored over the years. However, like all surgeons striving for perfection and excellence, I was disappointed in one blank section in my P&T packet. One area I haven’t been as successful or had as much experience is in mentoring junior faculty. I have, until now, always considered myself junior faculty and am only now coming into my own in my role as a more mid-career surgeon.
So to get the new year started off right, I wanted to fill in this blank and give some practical advice from my own experience to young academic surgeons as they go through the early years of their academic careers and navigate the P&T process.
Be specific. What are your career goals? Reflect on your 2-year, 5-year and 10-year goals. When I first started as an academic surgeon, I knew I was interested in education but wasn’t sure whether medical student or resident education would interest me more. I did several activities in both until I realized that resident education was a better fit for me. Once you know where your strengths and interests in academic surgery lie, revise and define your career goals as specifically as possible. Focus and devote your time and energy to the activities that help you reach those goals.
Be organized. Document, document, document. Keep a record of all of your academic activities and accomplishments as concurrently as possible. Add publication and presentation acceptances to your CV as soon as you get notifications. Document everything you do in your institution—medical students small groups, resident lectures, hospital committees or workgroups, research meetings, and even small things, like revising medical student quizzes, giving resident oral exams, or updating a patient care guideline. As you document, create an organizational system that works for you. I added everything I did to my Outlook calendar and once or twice a month, I would go through and transfer all the activities from my calendar into a running Word document. By placing it in Outlook, I could also note the amount of time spent. Make sure to include the date, length of time of the activity, any length of time you prepared ahead of time for the activity, and the number and types of learners involved. You should also read through your institution’s P&T guidelines, and review sample packets if possible. This way, you can create your record and CV in the same format in which your P&T packet will be submitted, which will be a huge time-saver later.
Be a double-dipper. Remember there are 4 domains to a career in academic surgery: teaching and mentoring, leadership/administrative service, clinical service, and research and scholarly activities. Some activities may allow “double-dipping” and encompass two or more of the major domains. If you started a program or implemented a guideline, make sure you to track data on outcomes, whether it’s catheter associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) rates, resident satisfaction on the night float service, or communication between consulting services. The data may help you double-dip and get a quality improvement or research project out of your program’s success, which will strengthen your packet. Using the example above of a guideline to decrease CAUTI, the creation and implementation of such a guideline would obviously improve patient care and would fall under the category of clinical service. However, if you also track outcomes, and have data to support the guideline, you may be able to produce some scholarly activity. And if a resident or student was a co-author on the project, you have added in some teaching and mentoring!
Be proud of your accomplishments. This one was the hardest for me. After I went to a couple of P&T planning sessions though, the message was clear—the P&T process is not the time to be humble! Be proud of all your accomplishments and brag on yourself! You want to make sure the P&T committee see how invaluable you are to your institution. Most importantly, you want to show as specifically as possible what YOU do to improve and advance the institution. This builds your case about how important and valuable you are to the institution—and will make your promotion a surefire success!
A quote by author Alex Morritt states: “New Year – a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.” Happy New Year and I wish you all the best of luck in writing your own success story as an academic surgeon!