New Positions Seek to Improve Diversity, Teaching at School of Medicine and Dentistry

September 07, 2006

Helping faculty become stronger teachers, and improving the recruitment and retention of female faculty and those from diverse backgrounds, are the driving forces behind the creation of two new Associate Dean positions in the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine and Dentistry.  Effective Sept. 1, Denham Ward, M.D., Ph.D., took on the role of Associate Dean for Faculty Development-Medical Education, and Vivian Lewis, M.D., became Associate Dean for Faculty Development-Women and Diversity.

In announcing the appointments, School of Medicine and Dentistry Dean David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., addresses two very important issues that have far-reaching consequences to the national competitiveness of the education, research, clinical, and community outreach missions of the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“The creation of these deanships attests to our commitment to live the University’s Meliora motto of ‘Always Better.’ Helping our faculty become the best teachers possible will make our students stronger as physicians, and in turn, better mentors and teachers themselves,” Guzick said. “Likewise, new approaches to faculty inclusiveness will strengthen our ability to serve an increasingly diverse group of patients and students. Tapping more women and minorities for leadership roles will bring fresh perspectives and broader appeal to the medical profession itself.”

Guzick added that faculty input strongly shaped the scope of the new deanships.

"Our faculty and students have appropriately raised concerns about both of these issues, and we have listened,” said Guzick. “I am delighted that we did not have to look far to fill these very important positions. Both Drs. Ward and Lewis are accomplished academicians and clinicians with a demonstrated passion for their new area of responsibility. I am confident that they will create a renewed energy and focus to help us move forward.”

Infusing Diversity

While the School of Medicine has a diverse student body, both in gender and racial mix, the opportunity to boost minority and female participation at the faculty level remains a critical issue faced not only here, but by academic medical centers nationwide.

“Nationally, we have done a good job of getting the incoming pipeline of physicians more in line with the demographics of our country,” said Linda Chaudron, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, who, along with Susan Cohn, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine in the Infectious Disease division, examined issues facing women and minority in academic medicine. “But after medical school and residency, women and minorities fall off the academic physician trajectory in unacceptable numbers. We need to better understand the complex reasons driving this phenomenon, and then develop an infrastructure that will attract and retain the best possible female and minority talent to the School of Medicine.”

Lack of female or minority role models is often cited as a barrier to recruitment, as is the access to both formal and informal networking structures. And, its geographic location can detract candidates from even considering a position in Rochester.  Chaundron and Cohn worked with Dean Guzick on a proposal to address the situation, and also sought guidance from the University’s Task Force on Faculty Diversity and Inclusiveness. The result was the creation of a new position dedicated to expanding the School of Medicine’s efforts.

“I am very excited to take on this new role at the School of Medicine,” said Lewis. “Lack of diversity among our faculty has tremendous ripple effects across all areas of our mission.  It impacts our ability to treat patients, to teach students, and to attract faculty. We know the issues are complex, and one approach will not solve all of them.  Yet, with the strong institutional commitment from both the School of Medicine and the University overall, I believe real progress can be made.” 

In the upcoming months, Lewis plans to form an advisory group of faculty who will help with a needs assessment of issues specific to Rochester. She also will introduce new methods and tools for chairs to help them diversify recruitment efforts, including development of a database of community contacts for newcomers to Rochester.  And she will continue to work closely with the University’s Faculty Diversity Taskforce.

Currently Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Lewis has been instrumental in creating the Medical Center’s nationally recognized reproductive unit. A graduate of Harvard College, she received her M.D. from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Lewis then completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, and her reproductive endocrinology fellowship at the University of California-San Francisco, where she helped to start their in vitro fertilization program. Lewis was on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago prior to coming to Rochester in 1991, when she was recruited to direct the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, a position she held until recently.  Lewis plans to continue her clinical, research and teaching work while assuming this new position.

Teaching the Teachers

The explosion of scientific knowledge, rapidly emerging technologies, and pressure to meet new competency standards are dramatically changing the approach to medical education throughout U.S. medical schools.  That places new demands on teaching faculty to evolve their teaching styles, while balancing commitments to patient care and research.  Forward-thinking medical schools must be prepared to support teaching faculty as never before. 

“Teachers are not born overnight. They need knowledge, skills, training, practice, and evaluation. We owe it to our faculty to give them the tools and training to improve their teaching skills,” said Ronald Epstein, M.D., Associate Dean for Educational Evaluation and Research at the School. 

Epstein formed a Committee on Faculty Development in 2005 to prepare a report for the Dean to address the support given to the residents and faculty who organize and teach students in the classroom, laboratory and at the bedside.

Committee co-chair John Hansen, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Admissions at the School, explained that traditionally, faculty development specific to teaching was primarily the responsibility of individual departments. The new Associate Dean for Faculty Development-Medical Education will launch a centralized effort to consistently evaluate current teaching methods and to create shared resources focused on improving the overall quality of teaching.

“I have long believed that education is central to all that we do at the Medical Center,” Ward said. “You need good clinical care to teach good clinical care, and vice versa. I am looking forward to working with individual faculty members and departments to understand what training exists, and where the gaps are, so that we can develop a robust set of resources to help our faculty become the best teachers possible.”

Ward already is hard at work, meeting with department chairs to conduct a needs assessment. He is also conducting a literature review so that all training is based on proven methods. A quarterly seminar series is in the works, as is a collection of resources that will be housed on a website for convenient access. Ward says he’d like to work toward a certificate program in medical education, and eventually, develop a Masters of Medical Education program at the School of Medicine.

“My appointment clearly tells our teaching faculty and residents that what they are doing is vital to the future of our organization,” Ward said. “We just need to give them tools to help them do their job better.”

A Professor and former Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Ward has long been an integral part of the teaching faculty at the School of Medicine. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Maine, and then went onto Los Angeles, where he completed a M.S. in engineering and a Ph.D. in Systems Science at UCLA.  He then turned his attention to medicine, receiving his medical degree from the University of Miami. Ward completed a one year internship in internal medicine at Jackson Memorial Hospital before moving to UCLA, where he finished his residency training in anesthesiology.  He held various clinical and administrative positions in two departments at UCLA, including director of its residency program in anesthesiology, before being recruited to become Chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology in 1992.  Ward stepped down as Chair in 2001, and after a sabbatical, has dedicated his time to teaching at the School of Medicine, in addition to his clinical and research responsibilities.

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