Friday, June 19, 2015

One Foundation

Published in VC's Notes on June 19, 2015

Our Faculty, Our Foundation

Thanks to those of you who were able to attend my first faculty meeting as vice chancellor Wednesday. 

It was gratifying to have a standing-room-only turnout, especially when we were hosting members of our Institutions of Higher Learning governing board.  Your engagement and enthusiasm were noted and appreciated.  (If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can watch it in its entirety here.)

Some of the statistics I presented at the meeting that compared 2014-15 data to those of a decade ago tell an important story about our faculty.

In the 2004-05 academic year, we had 787 faculty; this year, we have 1,050, an increase of 33 percent.

Ten years ago, we had 2,003 students; this year, we had 2,984, an increase of 49 percent.

And a decade ago we awarded 474 diplomas and certificates; this year, we presented 864, an increase of 82 percent.

The "stair-step" aspect to those growth percentages tells me that even though we have more faculty, you are more productive.  Because you're working harder and smarter, the growth of our "product" is outpacing faculty growth.  

And that's just in our education mission.  The same is true for our research and patient care missions. 

And that brings me to the main point of my presentation Wednesday and my column today:  Every employee here is important and has a role to play in our success.  But at a fundamental level, the quality of the faculty determines the quality of the institution.  After all, that's the nature of a university.

We can have the smartest students and the most modern, shiny facilities in the world, but if we do not have engaged faculty leaders who are invested in their work, we're not going to get where we need to be.  You are the common denominator of all we do in our quest for excellence.

The evidence of this truth is all around us.  Just one day before Wednesday's faculty meeting, we recognized the five latest recipients of the Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professorship, one of our Medical Center's highest honors for scholarship and teaching.  One of those recipients, Dr. Jane Reckelhoff, a two-time Guyton Professor, was also elected president of the American Physiological Society this year.  She is, incredibly, the ninth person with UMMC ties to hold that office. 

I could go on and on about our faculty, but I think you get the picture. 

Because our faculty is such a vital resource, it's important that we find ways to gain insight into your collective experience at UMMC.  That's where Faculty Forward comes in.

Faculty Forward is a survey tool developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges to measure and enhance medical school faculty engagement.  The survey debuted in 2009, and our medical school was one of 23 in that inaugural cohort.  We participated again in 2011 and 2014, giving us invaluable trend data.

The really exciting news is that in 2014, we were able to expand the survey to encompass faculty from all of our schools and our medical library. 

So what have we learned from Faculty Forward?

We learned that you like to be heard, which is so encouraging.  Our faculty response rate is among the highest of all institutions surveyed, about 75 percent on average across all schools.  We also learned that your overall, or global, satisfaction is among the highest of those surveyed.  For all our respondents, about 75 percent of our faculty are either satisfied or very satisfied with their experience at UMMC.  The next largest cohort, 16 percent, consisted of middle-of-the-roaders, indicating they were neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.  Fewer than one in ten faculty describe themselves as unsatisfied or very unsatisfied. 

Beginning with the first medical school survey of 2009, we've also learned what areas you would like us to work on.  The two most commonly cited are communication and more information about the promotion and tenure process.

We've taken those directives to heart, instituting the Vice Chancellor's Town Hall series, a more robust e-newsletter, and indeed, this weekly column to provide more information about our high-level activities and plans.  More communication initiatives are on the horizon.

We've also taken steps to increase the transparency of the P&T process and provide more support for this process at the departmental level for both tenure- and non-tenure-track faculty. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg about what Faculty Forward is telling us about your experience as faculty at UMMC.  You will hear much more about this in other venues, including much more information about your school-level and department-level experience.    

Our faculty is the foundation on which UMMC is built.  Your service to our students, our patients, your colleagues and the wider community is not just your occupation but a deeply-held calling.  For my part, I am committed to doing everything I can to make you feel that UMMC is the best possible place for you, as we all strive together toward A Healthier Mississippi. 

 



Follow me on Twitter @LAWoodwardMD