• Pathway to Promotion in Academics

    Welcome to academic medicine! We’re thrilled you will be joining the ranks of academic ophthalmology. 

    It may seem premature to think about your promotion from associate professor to professor, but it’s actually the perfect time. By taking these proper steps now, your promotion will go much smoother for you, your chairperson, and the promotions committee.

    Establish Expectations

    The first step is to meet with your chairperson or designated faculty mentor(s) and understand the expectations and requirements for promotion, including a timeline. Have this meeting within the first month of joining your practice. By inquiring early on, you establish clear expectations and can understand how each activity that you perform plays a role in the promotion process. If your department gets new chairs, meet with them to understand their expectations. This will allow you to approach them when you feel like you have fulfilled their requirements for promotion.

    Stay on Your ‘Stool’

    On my first day of academic medicine, my chairperson told me about the “three-legged stool” of academic medicine: teaching, patient care and scholarly activities. In order to avoid falling off the stool, you need  support from all three legs. Two can be longer than the third, but all three are needed for promotions and success in academic medicine. 

    Think about these three legs of the stool: what makes you happy, what makes you excited, what are you really interested in? Use the answers to guide you and your activities. Also, if you can combine one activity to serve two stools, you can kill two birds with one stone. Can you work on a teaching endeavor with medical students and residents and do research on your approach to teaching? Can you teach and mentor learners with your research projects? 

    Engage Trainees

    One of the best benefits of academic medicine and research is the support around you. Medical students and residents are extremely eager to help turn your research ideas into real projects. Utilize them. Mentor them. It’s a win-win-win situation: you get help with turning your research ideas into projects and publications, your students obtain valuable research experience and you teach and establish a mentorship relationship. Keep a running list of research ideas as you will get frequent emails from medical students looking for projects. 

    Say ‘Yes’ Often

    You will be asked to serve on committees for your department, the medical school and maybe even the school in general. Say “yes” to these opportunities when you can. They allow you to get to know faculty in other departments and provide “service to the university,” which is highly valued during academic promotion. I’ve made wonderful relationships with leaders in the hospital system through participation. 

    Update Your CV

    Finally, the most important thing you can do is keep your CV up to date. This cannot be understated. I’ve heard about delaying promotions because the CV did not include all of the activities that the academician had performed.

    Whenever you have a paper published, give a presentation, mentor a medical student or resident or participate in a committee — update your CV. Your CV is your key to the door of promotion, and it should be a living document that you continually update with every single thing you do. You’ll forget things if you don’t write them down. Shape your CV after your discussion with department chairs and even ask them about specific sections of the CV that they find helpful.

    By following these steps, you’ll make the promotion process easy and straightforward. Good luck. And remember, do not fall off your stool.

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    Evan Silverstein, MDEvan Silverstein, MD, is a pediatric ophthalmologist and an assistant professor of ophthalmology and associate resident program director at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.