CHICAGO—Throughout medical training, you have guideposts and guardrails all around you: academic advisors, professors in the classroom, preceptors in the clinic during residency. But once you get a job as a medical faculty member, you’re basically on your own.
Explore this issueDecember 2018
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“No one really trains you or teaches you about how you’re supposed to negotiate and navigate this really difficult channel,” said Christopher Ritchlin, MD, MPH, director of clinical immunology research at the University of Rochester, N.Y., during a session at the 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting.
“You have to take responsibility,” said Michelle Kahlenberg, MD, PhD, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “No one is going to hold your hand to bring you along.”
But Drs. Ritchlin and Kahlenberg offered suggestions that can help you achieve your career goals and keep you happy in the process.
The First 2 Years
For the first and second years in your first faculty position, Dr. Ritchlin said the first step is to develop a plan centered around what motivates you and how you can best contribute, how you want to spend your time in the world of medicine and outside it, your financial needs and your family plans. This will help the people in higher positions understand what you need to help you obtain your goals.
“When I have people come into my office who have this already done, it simplifies my job because I’ve got a great idea of what they want,” he said.
He suggested designing your fantasy job—whether it’s clinical, educational or research—and deciding where you want to be in three years, brainstorming it with friends, colleagues and family.
It’s important not to forget basic, but often overlooked, questions: Is this the right place? Are there people who will support me in what I want to do? Do I have commitments from division chiefs and department chairs? Does this place have solid financial standing?
Without addressing these factors at the outset, “It’s very challenging, once you start, to make it happen,” Dr. Ritchlin said. Also, get commitments of resources in writing, mainly in case the person who made the commitment leaves their position.
Practice communicating, he said: “[Communication is] so important to your success and for you to get your ideas across.” When writing, he said, use outlines, leave time afterward for the editing process and write every day if possible. When making presentations, remember your audience, keep slides simple and emphasize no more than four main points.
Leaving time and energy for life outside of medicine, and taking time to reflect on your path, will help keep a sense of balance, Dr. Ritchlin said.