Dr. David Norris, associate professor of family medicine, teaches students in a medical education building amphitheatre.
Dr. David Norris, associate professor of family medicine, teaches students in a medical education building amphitheatre.
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AAMC survey measures advances from UMMC faculty's Standpoint

Published on Thursday, October 4, 2018

By: Bruce Coleman

The faculty engagement survey administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges may have a new name, but its purpose remains the same: to enhance the working environment for all academicians at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Portrait of Dr. Patrick Smith

Faculty from all UMMC schools who participate in the Standpoint Surveys, formerly known as Faculty Forward, can provide valuable information for institutional leaders to make real and lasting changes, according to Dr. Patrick Smith, professor of family medicine and chief faculty affairs officer.

“Institutional leadership genuinely wants to learn what the faculty thinks and to make decisions that benefit them,” Smith said. “We want to hear how the institution can make adjustments to create a workplace environment that is more satisfying to our faculty.

“The results (of the Standpoint Surveys) drive decisions by institutional leadership to make changes. This is a valued instrument to hear what we can do differently to do better for our faculty.”

The AAMC began conducting the survey in 2009 and has repeated it about every two years. The initial analysis polled School of Medicine faculty exclusively, but Smith helped lead the charge to include faculty from all schools.

“Different academic health sciences campuses had schools in addition to medical schools,” Smith said. “Some of us went to the AAMC and asked how we could take the questions from the survey and apply them to other schools.

“The AAMC put together a pilot project and allowed us to administer a faculty engagement survey to all of the other schools on campus. We were in the first pilot group of schools that did this in 2015.”

The AAMC has even gone a step further in expanding its survey audience this year, now capturing responses from non-faculty members at select institutions as well (which necessitated the survey name change). Because the Medical Center already participates in the Employee Engagement Survey administered by Press Ganey, UMMC has elected not to take part in the non-faculty portion of the Standpoint Surveys.              

As a direct result of UMMC faculty participation in the AAMC surveys through the years, considerable adjustments have been made at the Medical Center. Consider:

• In 2009, one of the lowest rated items in the Faculty Forward survey was communication from the dean’s office. That sparked institutional leaders to begin offering a newsletter from the dean and a regular dean’s meeting with faculty.  

• In that same survey, UMMC got low marks from its faculty in knowledge of its promotion and tenure policy. That caused UMMC leaders to form promotion and tenure committees within each department to review promotion and tenure guidelines; offer educational opportunities for faculty to understand the process better; and lab time with question-and-answer and informational sessions about the procedure.

• Results can be targeted to improve specific departmental performance as well. The Department of Anesthesiology used data from the survey to create a better infrastructure around the reporting of financial data to the department. The Office of Faculty Affairs has contributed to emphasize better communication between faculty members and between the faculty and the departmental leadership team.


“They used the data and made real changes the faculty could actually see,” said Johnson George, director of faculty projects and process design and the Medical Center’s Standpoint Surveys guru. “Our institution took steps to address needs, and we have seen incremental increases in the satisfaction scores since that (first) survey.

“Medical Center leaders use these data (from the surveys) to drive decisions. They seriously consider these data and take action.”

The survey results have been so influential in helping steer institutional improvements that the AAMC has featured the Medical Center in its Promising Practices for Promoting Faculty Engagement and Retention at U.S. Medical Schools publication – not once, but twice.  

“We’re considered to be a leading institution in the Standpoint Survey community with the AAMC,” Smith said.

To maintain that leadership role, George said faculty engagement with the survey is paramount. He said participation by School of Medicine faculty has topped 73 percent in each of the last two surveys, and schools with a lesser number of faculty, such as the School of Nursing and the School of Health Related Professions, have even reached 83 percent participation.

Although these Standpoint Surveys participation rates are much higher than those of other participating institutions, George said there is room for improvement.

“Participation is important, and (faculty from) each school is different,” he said, “but if we could hit 100 percent (participation), I would be satisfied. Ultimately, this (survey response) leads to tangible changes and retention of the quality faculty that we have here at UMMC.

“We need to attract and retain quality faculty here.”

Dr. Emily McVey, right, professor of physical therapy, teaches School of Health Related Professions students, from left, Brittany Chisolm, O.T.D.; Katie Reid, D.P.T.; Adiana Gardner, D.P.T.; Huang Pham, O.T.D. and Jacob Huff, D.P.T.

The AAMC will distribute the Standpoint Surveys to all UMMC faculty members by email beginning Tuesday, Oct. 16. Faculty will have until Friday, Nov. 23 to complete and submit their responses.

George said the survey is completely confidential.

“We only get the data from the AAMC,” he said. “To ensure confidentiality, the AAMC will provide only aggregated results in which individuals cannot be identified. Faculty identity will be carefully protected by the AAMC and their privacy will be maintained in all published and written data shared with UMMC.

“The AAMC will not use any individual faculty member’s name or email address for any purpose other than to contact faculty to participate in this study.”

He said once the data are received from the AAMC, a task force of UMMC faculty members and senior leaders from each of the schools combs through the information and makes recommendations to executive leaders.

“They try to align their findings and suggestions with the (Medical Center’s) Strategic Plan that is ongoing to make sure they can meet their recommendations.”

He said the Medical Center makes the Standpoint Surveys results as transparent as possible. Survey data are made available to all UMMC faculty to see, no matter the department. For example, a Department of Surgery faculty member can look at the data from the Department of Pediatrics.

Results from the Standpoint Surveys this fall will be made available to faculty by mid-February.

George said ultimately, the Standpoint Surveys are an effort to improve the institutional environment for UMMC faculty.

“The more faculty who participate in this, the more it allows us to get a picture of what they are thinking and feeling and what we have to do as an institution to be where they need us to go,” he said. “The more voices we hear from, it’s better for the institution.”

To see reports from previous surveys, UMMC faculty can visit https://www.umc.edu/Office%20of%20Academic%20Affairs/For-Faculty/Faculty-Affairs/Resources/Standpoint%20Surveys%20-%20Faculty%20Forward.html. For more information about Standpoint Faculty Engagement Surveys, visit https://www.aamc.org/services/standpointsurveys. For more information about this year’s Standpoint Surveys, email George at jgeorge2@umc.edu.