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Pathway to Promotion: Practical Tips and Tools for Early to Mid-career Physicians

Written by: Charalene Fisher
Published on: Jan 25, 2024

Pathway to Promotion

Photo Credit: Cagkan -

Establishing your “why,” “what,” and “how” on the path to promotion in academic medicine summarizes this high-yield session. “Why do you want to be promoted?” was the first question identified. “Is it okay if I die as an assistant professor?” was the lighthearted question that opened this talk. Yes, it is okay, but since you are contributing you can be promoted if you know how.

The value of being promoted is important personally and for your profession. The personal benefit of a salary increase and the recognition of your scholarship are motivators, but the profession benefits when everyone contributing has a seat at the table of academic medical leadership. One presenter highlighted the fact that women are less likely to pursue promotion, and subsequently represent a smaller portion of medical leadership. When medical leadership accurately represents the population it improves equity.

Once the motivation for pursuing promotion is well established the next step is finding your niche. Your niche is the driving force behind what you do. Think about the days you love. What was it about those days that inspired you? Pondering these questions helps identify your niche. With a clear “why” and “what,” the next step is to learn the basic requirements of the promotion process at your institution.

Within each institution, there are many tracks. Learn what the expectations are on your specific track. You must show scholarship in your specific niche within your track. Scholarship is not just publication. Document your work in advocacy, medical education, and social media, as well as research, and speak to the value you bring on your curriculum vitae (CV).

It is easier to demonstrate your value when you have a system to consistently document your contributions on your CV. Updating your CV is important. Set a calendar reminder to update your CV every month. Keep a folder in your email inbox with thank-you messages, evaluations, and work you are doing on your committees. This allows you to update your CV easily with examples. Reviewers often ask for specific examples. Even the small things that are meaningful to you belong on your CV. Regularly looking at your CV allows you to identify personal areas of growth early in the promotion process.

Once you identify your career niche and begin documenting consistently, the next goal is to focus on developing a regional and national presence. Be an active member of regional medical associations and subcommittees of the national association.

Collaborate with peers to find a specific niche, draft a successful CV, and build a regional and national presence. Once you have contributed consistently do not wait for others to tell you that you are ready to go up for promotion. Self-promotion may feel unnatural, but remember you are adding value and deserve success.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the basic requirements of the promotion process at your institution.
  • Identify personal areas of growth for the promotion process.
  • Collaborate with peers to address the following growth areas: finding a specific niche, drafting a successful curriculum vitae, and building a regional and national presence.


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