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Understanding the Role of the Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development Professional

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Jane Gibson, PhD, FACMG
Professor of Pathology and Chair
Department of Clinical Sciences
University of Central Florida College of Medicine

Medical school faculty are valuable assets to the success of the medical school tripartite missions of education, research, and patient care.1 Offices of faculty affairs and the professionals who serve in them provide collaborative support for a number of administrative functions for faculty appointed to academic medicine tracks. The complexities of offices of faculty affairs have grown in recent years.2 The size of their staffs and budgets often depend on the size of the institution and number of faculty. Although the role of faculty affairs offices may vary by institution, they commonly oversee several essential functions. Historically, efforts to recruit, develop, and retain faculty resided with individual departments; however, centralizing these functions within a faculty affairs office may provide continuity and best practices that may be of benefit across the institution.

Offices of faculty affairs usually support and manage academic processes, including promotion and tenure procedures. They may work with institutional provost offices to develop processes for faculty promotion and tenure. In many institutions, medical school faculty have unique needs with respect to faculty track structure, which facilitates the educational, research, and clinical missions and aligns with the diverse skillsets and expertise of both employed and volunteer faculty. Faculty affairs offices guide and support faculty by preparing promotion materials, governing promotion and tenure committees, and overseeing workflows and timelines for candidate reviews at the department, college, and university levels. This support may also extend to other academic achievement recognition processes, including special designations such as professor emeritus and endowed chair. They also facilitate the appointment and promotion of nonpaid volunteer faculty at affiliated hospitals and clinics. The faculty affairs office may also help departments comply with university requirements, including conflict-of-interest policies and mandatory university and college-wide faculty trainings.

Faculty affairs offices may work closely with human resources offices. They may assist with search processes, faculty onboarding, and clinical faculty credentialing. They may also help volunteer faculty access university resources, work with department chairs and directors to develop and standardize faculty offer letters, review candidates to assign them to appropriate academic rank, and assist provost offices with reviewing and approving appointments and tenure.

Other core activities include developing and coordinating faculty management activities, including annual evaluations, counseling, conflict resolution, consultation of the university ombudsman’s office, and grievance processes and committees. The office also helps facilitate development opportunities for faculty by identifying recognition awards, scholarships and fellowships, teaching enhancement activities and courses, and leadership and professional development programs. The offices may also be involved in faculty handbook development, faculty governance, mentorship programs, and programs for women and minority faculty.

Faculty affairs leadership positions may be full- or part-time. Faculty affairs leaders may report independently to the dean of the medical school or other officials and may have close working relationships with their provost’s office. Offices of faculty affairs may also have internal advisory groups or, in some cases, may be part of larger medical school enterprise-wide leadership committees or cabinets.

References

  1. Whitcomb ME. The medical school’s faculty is its most important asset. Acad Med. 2003;78(2):117-118.
  2. Sonnino RE, Reznik V, Thorndyke LA, et al. Evolution of faculty affairs and faculty development offices in U.S. medical schools: a 10-year follow-up survey. Acad Med. 2013;88(9):1368-1375.
     

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