Category Archives: Leadership

Hashtag Mentorship

Randall Reitz

Randall Reitz, PhD

#researchismypants
#takeitlikeahurdle

Mentorship has been around since the era of The Odyssey.  In the poem, as Odysseus prepares to leave for the Trojan War, he entrusts his son Telemachus to the tutelage of his trusted colleague, named Mentor. Our modern usage of this term extends from Homer’s character, but mentorship has evolved greatly in the nearly 3,000 years since (and now occasionally involves hashtags).

I recently had the privilege of being a small-group mentor with STFM’s Behavioral Science/Family Systems Educator Fellowship (BFEF).  I worked alongside Jill Schneiderhan, MD, to provide guidance to four early career behavioral medicine faculty and it was the highlight of my year.

My own small group was smitten with hashtags. They provided a pithy lingua franca to describe and unify our experiences. The two hashtags at the top of this post linger most in my memory.

#researchismypants came from a tear-filled (joy and sadness) discussion during our final dinner together. One of the fellows declared that she had just sworn off wearing pants. I observed that “research is my pants” and that I had just sworn off research. Neither of us could further abide these noxious crimps on our preferred lifestyle.

#takeitlikeahurdle came from the ride home on Highway 5 after that dinner. One of the fellows observed that she had recently sprinted across the same interstate earlier in the day, yelling for her husband to leap over the median “like a hurdle”.

 

hashtag mentorship

Randall’s BFEF Small Group

 

These hashtags encapsulate much of the tension of early career professionalism. People entering a new field face the dual pressures of being as helpful and generous with their colleagues as possible (to ingratiate themselves to the system). They also need to begin to delimit the scope of their job descriptions so that they maintain sanity and high self-expectations for work quality. The new professional needs to bring both positive energy and expertise to the projects they take on (ie, #takeitlikeahurdle) but also assert the confidence and negotiating skill to decline opportunities that aren’t a great fit (#researchismypants).

Each of the fellows successfully navigated experiences that embodied this tension, whether it was making a tough decision to change residencies for a better fit, standing up to a challenging colleague, enduring with pride the difficulties of relationship strife, or confronting unhealthy expectations from their department. It was an honor to scaffold our mentees during these trials. It was a thrill to watch how our charges came through stronger.

By my estimation, the BFEF Fellowship is an eminent example of modern mentorship.  What does it look like?

  • Intensive face-to-face mentorship at two STFM conferences and the Forum on Behavioral Science Education
  • Individual, small-group, and large-group meetings
  • Monthly small-group phone calls
  • Weekly synchronous and asynchronous points of contact (ie, email, project feedback)
  • A professional learning contract to personalize and guide the experience
  • A community of volunteers that support the mentors

This fellowship is one of many run by STFM, including training programs for leadership, practice transformation, teaching medical students, and medical journalism. These great offerings are constantly looking for faculty, advisors, and trainees, and I highly recommend you apply. Having experienced STFM training as both a mentee and mentor, I can attest to the richness of the experience from both sides.

#mentorshipalwaysevolves
#mentorshipneverchanges

The Same Old Problems That Each Generation of Women Face in Medicine

Written by the Women in Family Medicine Collaborative

Recent survey data shows that many of the problems faced by members of the Women in Family Medicine Collaborative are the same old problems that recur for each generation.

Members of the collaborative report that their top concern is addressing disparities for women in medicine, followed by negotiations and salaries, and power and control in the workplace. These self-reported concerns are backed up by numbers. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that 47% of entering medical students are women, but just 16% of women are in dean positions, 15% are in department chair positions, and 21% are in full professor positions. Only 32% of full-time women faculty are associate professors or higher, compared with 52% of full-time men faculty. Issues of control and negotiation naturally follow from these kinds of power differentials.

The STFM Women’s Collaborative took this information and presented a multigenerational panel at the STFM 50th Annual Spring Conference. The panel helped to frame, contextualize, and put perspective on the problems we encounter today and have been encountering for years.

Dr Candib found a clipping from the late 1980s addressing concerns about negotiation specific to physicians practicing part-time. The concerns highlighted—how to get recognized for call and how to negotiate benefits—would be very familiar to part-time doctors today. One 1989 panel addressed women’s leadership styles, and another spoke to role conflict and empowerment issues for women in academic family medicine. Even after years of working on these problems, we still face them.

It became clear from the discussion that these issues are not unique to the Women’s Collaborative. Dr Candib showed a 6-minute interview with Dr Jeannette South-Paul recollecting her early experiences as a black woman in family medicine and detailing the different choices that women of color may make in their work within STFM. Racism, elitism, and homophobia were the key topics in that same STFM annual conference in 1989. Audience members and panelists connected content from the panel discussion this year to other talks they had attended. Other groups share the struggles of the Women’s Collaborative: struggles for equality, against bias, and for representation in leadership.  

Though we have a feminist perspective on these struggles, we do not own the solutions to them. Too many of the annual conference discussions happened as ours did: in a conference room big enough for 40, with another discussion about a similar struggle happening 90 minutes later in another conference room with 40 different people.

Incoming STFM President Stephen Wilson encouraged us to put aside our labels at the closing plenary session. Many of us embrace our labels, but we acknowledge that we share common goals. The Women’s Collaborative had good success at collaborating internally to produce the panel, and next, we hope to collaborate externally. We would like to join efforts with other groups doing mutual work to promote common goals. 

The Women’s Collaborative will work to address the leadership needs of women in STFM and within academic family medicine during this academic year. We will actively seek out other STFM collaborations or individuals who share these goals. Where one voice or one face experiences less bias, we all benefit.

How I’ve Changed and Am Changing

How the STFM Behavioral Science/Family Systems Educator Fellowship Influenced My Professional Development

  1. Step to the beat of a different drummer
  2. Bring your gift (pa-rum-pa-pum-pum)
  3. Support the rhythm of the group

—Hugh Blumenfeld

Amber Cadick, PhD, HSPP

Amber Cadick, PhD, HSPP

During the keynote address at the STFM Annual Spring Conference last spring, the presenter spoke about the Beatles and which band member everyone would be. Our table, made up of my small group, decided that we would be the “Ringos.” We are the quirky faculty members, the ones that aren’t quite like the others. However, much like Ringo, we keep the beat and know when the rhythm is starting to go astray.

Prior to starting STFM’s Behavioral Science/Family Systems Educator Fellowship, I felt very alone in my position. I had my predecessor to use as a support, but she was busy starting her new position in a different city. I had her files, her old calendar, and her desk, but I felt very alone and concerned that I had made a terrible mistake leaving the familiarity and regulations of the Department of Veterans Affairs. My life was definitely a wild, irregular drum beat.

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