Just Say No: Saving Your Sanity While Working in Academic Medicine

David Norris, Jr, MD

David Norris, Jr, MD

Congratulations! You’ve received your appointment as a new faculty. Faculty evaluations and promotion and tenure reviews will arrive before you know it.

One way to shine in your first year, and to build your CV, is by serving on committees, engaging in research, publishing journal articles, and directing educational experiences. When you start, administrative time is likely spent completing your charts and twiddling your thumbs. You will want to fill that time and will be tempted to take the dozens of opportunities that comes your way. And why shouldn’t you be involved? You have the time—right?

Be careful about always saying yes. Beyond settling into your role as a faculty member, you have to protect your mental health. Getting involved in too much, too quickly, will emotionally, psychologically, and physically burn you out. Plus, you’ll miss great opportunities later on if you’re too busy with projects early on that are only of modest interest to you.

However, knowing when to say no—and then actually saying it—can be a challenge.

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Grabbing Ahold of the Research Ropes

Kyle Bradford Jones, MD

Kyle Bradford Jones, MD

One of the most common challenges faced by new faculty is how to get a good handle on research. The transition to academic medicine is a difficult one, whether coming directly out of residency or from a different practice setting. It can often present confusion on expectations and how to achieve your desired goals.

If you are anything like me, you were likely a little naïve about what may be required to pull off successful research projects. Dealing with the internal review board (IRB), leading a research team, understanding the ins and outs of applying for grant funding, properly fulfilling IRB and grant requirements after approval, knowing the best place to submit your manuscript, dealing with publishers and editors, and other steps in the process can cause anxiety and confusion.

To avoid anxiety and confusion as you start your research and career, seek out a mentor, collaborate wisely, pursue your interests, learn all that you can about the funding game, and be persistent.

Seek mentorship

The importance of a good mentor cannot be overstated. Finding someone, preferably at your own institution, can help with many of the little things that you may not anticipate. A mentor at your home institution can steer you to someone who knows how the local IRB works or to someone who can ensure your grant is submitted properly. Even understanding the differences between the types of grants, such as an R18 or R21, and which one may best fit your level of expertise and type of research can be invaluable and save you a lot of time. It is ideal if your mentor is in a similar research area. However, due to the competitive nature of research, some colleagues in your home institution may prefer not to be a mentor.

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