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    Faculty Affairs: An Increasingly Complex Support Function in Medical Schools

    Over the past many years, the management of the affairs of faculty transitions has become a core function of medical school administration. In this period of time the number of full-time medical school faculty members has more than doubled from approximately 61,000 in 1986 to current numbers of over 115,000. Over the same period of time, the relationship of academic departments to research centers and teaching hospitals has become more complex and the variety of academic tracks has expanded to accommodate new faculty roles and broadened forms of scholarship. Increasingly, medical school deans are assigning core responsibility to senior decanal officers who must build honest and open relationships across the health science center and across the hierarchy of senior leadership (including university and hospital CEO’s), department chairs, and diverse faculty and staff.

    Whether they are assigned to a single Faculty Affairs dean or distributed to a team of individuals, the faculty affairs functions are core to the effective operations and growth of medical schools. Relationship building is key and support of the Dean is critical to the success of the staff who guide policy-building to support faculty efforts, monitor practices of recruitment and advancement, and organize professional development programs. The AAMC Faculty Affairs Forum offers a national network for faculty affairs professionals by providing resources, a rich network of peers through listserv communications, and professional development conferences.

    The workshop for new Faculty Affairs officers held on the first day of last year’s AAMC Faculty Affairs Professional Development Conference offered a reading list with topics that range from difficult conversations to negotiation skills to contemporary descriptions of scholarship. Workshop discussions reflected the dynamic tensions institutional and individual faculty needs, regulatory policies and professional development programs, autonomy, and accountability.

    "Must Reads" for Faculty Affairs Deans

    • Argrys, C. "Teaching Smart People How to Learn." Harvard Business Review. May-June 1991, 99-109. Reprint 91301
    • Boyer, E. "Scholarship Reconsidered - Priorities of the Professoriate." The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. 1990 (11th printing: 1996)
    • Biebuyck J; Mallon, W. The Successful Medical School Department Chair - Module 1 - a Guide to Good Institutional Practice. AAMC 2002
    • Frost, P; Robinson, S. "The Toxic Handler. Organizational Hero - and Casualty." Harvard Business Review. July-August 1999, 97-106. Reprint 99406.
    • Pfeffer, J; Sutton, RI. "The Smart-Talk Trap." Harvard Business Review. May-June 1999, 135-142. Reprint 99310.
    • Schell, GR. Bargaining for Advantage. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.
    • Stone, D; Patton, B; Heen, S. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.

    The investment in faculty affairs and professional development activities in medical schools can yield significant returns with modest investments. The feature article in the Winter issue of Faculty Vitae addressed the application of not-for-profit business knowledge to the functions of retention of medical faculty. Leading Faculty Affairs deans feel it is important to model wise use of institutional resources in the operation of the offices of Faculty Affairs. For example, Dr. Steve Bogdewic, Executive Dean for Faculty Development at Indiana University College of Medicine and a member of the AAMC Faculty Affairs Planning Committee, tells us “a renewed emphasis on faculty development does not mean the creation of a new massive infrastructure.” Faculty development/academic affairs offices make the most of existing resources by:

    • Assessing and prioritizing needs across the institution,
    • Eliminating redundancies,
    • Developing a strategic plan and a strategic way of thinking,
    • Educating department chairs about their responsibilities to address faculty work assignments and career advancement, and
    • Serving as a bridge between units to form collaborations that have an impact on greater numbers of faculty.

    Since his appointment as Executive Dean for Faculty Development at Indiana University School of Medicine, Dr. Bodgewic has been demonstrating how a modestly staffed office can support the work of professional development by:

    • Working closely with a Faculty Development Coordinating Committee,
    • Addressing a campus-wide needs assessment, augmented with focus groups,
    • Meeting with all Chairs and deans to address a conceptual framework for faculty development activities, and
    • Developing a funding initiative around areas of high need such as leadership program, diversity recruitment, and women’s advancement.

    Faculty Affairs officers in a variety of medical schools in North America are finding success in offering cost-effective professional development. This is evinced by a growing numbers of faculty affairs offices and faculty development programs. The Spring 2006 issue of Faculty Vitae offers a catalog of programs housed in medical schools.

    The Evolution of National Agendas to Advance Medical Faculty Affairs, 1987-2006

    Drs. Tom Viggiano and Henry Strobel are two faculty affairs deans who have been engaged in the growing community of faculty affairs officers over the past 20 years. They describe this growth as an evolution of “a collaborative community of learning and practice focused on the enhancement of faculty function and success in their various roles in Academic Health Centers.” This evolution began in 1987 with the support of former AAMC staff member, Janet Bickel and the establishment of a professional interest group.

    The Faculty Affairs Forum brought institutional officials together to address major issues of resource constraints and tenure policies. Over the course of its first seven years, the focus was largely upon the historical linking of tenure with salary guarantees. Faculty Affairs officers brought to this discussion a call to address the professional development of faculty at the same time as institutions were implementing systems of mission-based management to address the allocation of resources. Programs to support the advancement of women and minority faculty arose during this time, and many called for new definitions of scholarship to advance the increasingly diverse service and education roles of medical faculty. By the time the Faculty Affairs Forum held its third professional development conference in Snowmass, Colorado in 1997, the Carnegie Foundation had published its report, “Scholarship Assessed.” This work challenged the academic community to broaden its definitions of scholarship and reinforced initiatives from within the AAMC Group on Educational Affairs (GEA) and the Faculty Affairs Forum. Representatives of these two groups recently joined together for a national dialogue at the GEA Consensus Conference on Educational Scholarship, the most recent advance in a five-year project on the part of GEA leadership to “value faculty who support and advance the core mission of medical education through academic promotion.”

    This year the members of the Faculty Affairs forum have requested recognition as one of the formal professional development Groups of the AAMC. The AAMC Executive Council endorsed the forum’s moving forward with developing rules and regulations for consideration at the June 2006 Executive Council meeting. The Group will formalize the identity of this important set of functions of supporting faculty affairs in medical schools by addressing policies and academic and leadership professional development of medical faculty through the following activities:

    • Facilitate dialogue and debate to respond to emerging challenges of faculty in rapidly changing environments in our academic health centers,
    • Develop strategies for sharing comprehensive professional development resources through conferences and on-line resources, including timely list-serve exchanges of information,
    • Provide a policy and procedure resource collaborative for faculty affairs professionals,
    • Strengthen the network of faculty affairs professionals who mentor, consult, and offer peer review and feedback to colleagues, and
    • Complement the existing work of other AAMC Councils and Groups that address program and resource development for faculty.