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    General Career Development: Maximizing the Success of Your Faculty

    Carol K. Bates, MD
    Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs
    Office for Faculty Affairs
    Harvard Medical School

    Beatriz Tapia, MD, EdD, MPH
    Assistant Dean, Faculty Development
    Office for Faculty Affairs
    University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine

    Your role in fostering faculty career development will likely depend upon the nature of your institution. Young and emerging medical schools that are building a base faculty from scratch often have very different needs from established schools that may already have many programs and a large cadre of faculty.

    As an office providing faculty services, define whom you are expected to serve and where the greatest needs lie. Are you charged with faculty across the life cycle, from recruitment to retirement and everything in between? Define your boundaries: Are you also expected to work with trainees, residents, postdocs, and staff? Are there other offices that are already addressing skill development in medical education, research, and clinical care delivery? If so, do you need to partner with them? If not, how great are the needs in any of these domains and should you take them on? A needs assessment survey can help you identify areas of specific need. You will likely want to partner with other institutional entities both to create resources and programs that may be missing and to heighten faculty awareness of existing resources. You may aspire to be the central place that faculty turn to for their career development; don’t assume that faculty are aware of institutional resources. One of your roles may be to develop both in-person programs and online resources that bring together all things relevant for faculty development.

    While those in faculty development roles likely do not oversee academic promotion, you may want to partner with those leaders who do to develop clear communications and transparency about “tracks,” tenure, processes, and metrics. Potential methods for such communication include a clear and easily accessible faculty handbook, presentations and webinars about how to get promoted, and a consultation service for individual faculty. Areas of career development for each level may vary because the needs of junior, mid-career, and senior faculty are different.

    You may wish to offer the following additional services.

    1. Leadership training. Activities can include short-course programs for large audiences and longitudinal courses, which may be project-based and enroll a small cadre of faculty each year. You can also disseminate information about (and potentially offer financial support to attend) opportunities offered by external organizations, particularly for AAMC courses offered by the Group on Women in Medicine and Science and the Group on Diversity and Inclusion.
    2. Research. Activities can include offering grant-writing workshops, piloting grant opportunities that require financial support, and disseminating information about and selecting applicants for external awards.
    3. Teaching skill development. Consider academies that provide pedagogy, resources in medical education research, community, and recognition.
    4. Mentorship and sponsorship support. While this topic is addressed in another section of this guide, you may need to build programs in this domain as a key way to support faculty.

    There is no magic hour nor delivery mechanism for faculty development; consider face-to-face, web-based, asynchronous training, and podcast formats. Having a set time and place or theme may enhance attendance. You can also incentivize attendance by conferring continuing medical education credit or certificates after the completion of a course and providing food.

    General career development is an important component for medical school and health institutions yet funding for these activities is often limited. To enhance your budget for career development, you should present activities as return on investment for faculty retention. Studies show that faculty development programs may increase faculty retention and facilitate success.1 Recruitment costs can vary by institutions but a conservative estimate for recruitment of a basic scientist or clinician can cost up to $250,000 per faculty member.2

    Finally, we work in a constantly changing environment, and the needs of your faculty may change over time and therefore warrant periodic reassessment no matter how robust your menu of services may be.

    The importance of celebrating and championing faculty accomplishments in achieving a vital academic community cannot be understated. To this end, faculty development officers can play an important role, in cooperation with the faculty affairs office and academies, by recognizing successful grant applications, promotions, completed courses, and accomplishments such as new program development. Engaging program graduates in future program iterations can build on individual professional growth and contribute to the overall sense of community.

    In the realm of medical education, a scholarly approach to teaching based on education principles and best practices should be taught and reinforced as new faculty often lack a background in this regard and senior faculty may be resistant to changing practices that seem to have served them well in the past. The faculty affairs office can be instrumental in fostering growth and best practices and establishing new norms that promote effective learning.


    1. Ries A, Wingard D, Gamst A, Larsen C, Farrell E, Reznik V. Measuring faculty retention and success in academic medicine. Acad Med. 2012;87(8):1046-1051.
    2. Wingard DL, Garman KA, Reznik V. (2004). Facilitating faculty success: outcomes and cost benefit of the UCSD National Center of Leadership in Academic Medicine. Acad Med. 2004;79(10):S9-S11.