As an experienced faculty developer, you’ve organized programs and taught research and teaching skills to new family medicine faculty for years. But have you stayed responsive and flexible—do you continue to show value in your department, institution, or community? This is a crucial time for faculty development to regain its momentum as a driving force for the value of family medicine.
For our faculty development staff, one way to show value has been to work in partnership with the community. Here are a few of the ways we’re adding value to community partnerships. The good news is that we’re using skill sets we already have.
- Apply elements of systematic program design. Sometimes the default approach to community work is to show up and give a lecture or introduce a “can’t miss” grant idea. We’ve learned first-hand that isn’t the best way. But, we’ve learned that deliberate skill formation for interested community members can be effective. For example, sound program design skills can lay a valuable foundation for community programs. In a recent health initiative, our faculty development staff worked with inner-city pastors to conduct an RNS study (Resources, Needs, and Strengths). The results were reviewed over several meetings before the intervention was designed, and the program was ultimately funded.
- Work effectively in cross-disciplinary and hierarchical settings. Many educators skilled in faculty development are trained and experienced in fields that are not medicine. On campus, we learn to respectfully navigate the cultures and hierarchies of various disciplines and settings. Community engagement requires a similar ability to work across diverse fields and cultures. At a recent community conference on childhood obesity, FD skills prepared me well to facilitate a day-long, interactive workshop that was highly successful. Our diverse work group included a geneticist, refugee specialist, child care coordinator, and neonatologist.
- Develop community-engaged researchers. Many community initiatives struggle from a lack of dedicated scholars and researchers. (The field of family medicine has a similar history of such struggles.) Now, both researchers and research training capacity are present in many family medicine departments. Michener and colleagues (Acad Med, March 2012) discussed strategies for community research training. Among them, (1) Co-teach with community members. I saw this skill displayed at a local meeting when a parish nurse skillfully discussed community needs while her academic partner emphasized the feasibility of study design options associated with these needs and (2) Form a community advisory board for research. Our faculty development staff helped a large community grant form a research advisory board—assisting their grant and the preparation of future community scholars.
Our faculty developers have skills that match community health partnership needs, setting the stage for adding value. Have you found new ways to add value to your community? Is this an important direction for family medicine resources? Comment on this post or write to the author (firstname.lastname@example.org).