The Promotion Application Journey

Earlier this year, I was thrilled and honored to learn that my application for promotion to a full professor of medicine was approved. Any promotion in academic medicine is an accomplishment, and the broader context of my promotion made the milestone all the more special—I was days away from turning 42, mother to two school-aged children, and three years into a global pandemic, and I had an application packet heavy in non-traditional and digital scholarship, including advocacy work.

In the spirit of paying it forward, I shared my reflection on the promotion-application journey and how I articulated my non-traditional scholarship in my application packet in a Tweetorial, and now in this article.

Global tips

The promotion journey, both the application process itself and the years of professional development and accomplishments leading up to it, can be lonely and stressful. Having a deep bench of mentors, sponsors, allies, and coaches was essential for me in the years leading up to the promotion and the application process itself. Having peer mentors and friends going through the process simultaneously was also invaluable for having logistical and emotional support. These types of relationships should be sought and nurtured regardless of one’s promotion plans or timeline. Having long-standing relationships cemented before I began my promotion journey also gave me a very solid foundation of tangible and intangible support. Find allies and thought leaders at your institution who are challenging the dogma of academia and advocating for new evaluation paradigms.

Being aware of and using institution-level resources is essential. Every institution has different criteria and processes for promotion. Familiarize yourself proactively with local criteria as well as faculty development options (even three or four years before you think you might apply for promotion). This will empower you to continue to channel your passions and energy to have impact and reach, and to learn how to articulate that on your curriculum vitae (CV) and professional dossier.

Become as well-versed as possible in the core information about gender and racial inequities in the promotion-and-tenure space and other facets of professional development. The promotion space is fraught with imposter syndrome. Knowing the systematic challenges that women and other vulnerable groups in medicine face can empower conversations about your impact and reach with stakeholders and mentors. Know the information about the harms of leaky pipelines—a metaphor for the way women become underrepresented minorities (especially in STEM fields). Know that women do not apply for jobs or promotions until they think they are more than 100% qualified. Know the data about how women submitted fewer publications during the pandemic and how women are viewed less favorably in medicine (CV ratings, future citations, lower Altmetric scores) just by having a feminine-sounding name.

Familiarize yourself with the promotion landscape hospitalists face. Hospital medicine is still a relatively young internal medicine subspecialty, with small numbers of hospitalists who have reached the full professor level. Traditional research and peer-reviewed scholarship are not the only ways to have scholarly impact as a hospitalist, and the last three years of the pandemic have solidified hospitalists’ context expertise within health care systems, leadership, and service. Be prepared to think outside the box by measuring and articulating your academic contributions as a hospitalist and ensure you have mentorship and faculty-development support to do so.

Finally, be aware of the cutting-edge work being done to define and articulate the inherent worth of digital scholarship, social media-based scholarship, and advocacy, including Ernest Boyer’s concept of “scholarship of engagement.”1 Ask yourself where your passions, interests, and accomplishments mesh with these non-traditional ways of having impact. Build off these definitions to assess and articulate your accomplishments.

Macro-technical tips

While the promotion application can feel like a static, discrete process, I think it’s better viewed as part of an ongoing continuum of professional development and assessments. The biggest piece of advice I can give in that regard is to keep your CV, professional dossier, and educator’s portfolio updated. That might feel easier said than done with large workload volumes and bandwidth constraints that typify medical careers in the 2020s, but I assure you proactive CV maintenance will reap benefits, including time management and efficient data collection. I moved my CV and professional-dossier documents to the cloud several years ago and can update my CV from multiple devices. I add publications, talks, and other accomplishments to my CV as close to in real-time as possible to avoid the challenges of recall.

Make your professional dossier living, breathing documents as much as possible. Using cloud-based documents also creates the opportunity to leverage electronic documents in your professional dossier. Empower any reader of your CV and professional dossier to read between the lines of the line items entered there. I include hyperlinks to everything from peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications to podcasts, blogs or op-eds, social-media-based teaching, and social-media-based advocacy, as well as metrics of impact and reach, such as Altmetric scores or media coverage of my research.

In addition to curating your CV and other components of the professional dossier, I highly recommend having a professional development or accomplishment rainy-day folder. Akin to the folder of thank-you cards from patients or trainees, at the very least a rainy-day folder (e.g., screengrabs of positive feedback) can be the boost you need on a tough day. Additionally, it serves as a central repository for demonstrative feedback about your professional impact and reach, which is exactly what you need to supply in a promotion application. The rainy-day folder is also a great location to store and save the “I did this but don’t know how or where to put it on my CV” items.

Micro-technical tips

Eventually, your evaluation for promotion (or other opportunities such as a new position or award) will depend not only on your list of accomplishments but also on the impact and trajectory of your work, passions, and energies. No one will be in a better position to articulate your trajectory and momentum than YOU! No one will be in a better position to articulate the challenges you’ve overcome and the difference you’ve made than YOU! The personal statement or cover letter is how to bring all the foundational tips I’ve shared thus far into the most impactful narrative of you as a clinician as possible.

For my promotion application, I had five pages maximum to tell my readers things that perhaps only I knew about my impact and trajectory. I used part of that valuable real estate to briefly highlight the data regarding pandemic-related gender inequities and non-promotable activities, the definition of digital scholarship, and the concept of the scholarship of engagement. I hope everyone has the psychologically safe space to call out the disruptions their professional trajectories have faced in recent years.

Remember that rainy daily folder? Review it and incorporate the highest-yield elements of feedback and proof of impact as much as possible. In addition to traditional evaluations (e.g., teaching evaluations, and CME lecture feedback), many means of feedback might occur via social media. I embedded select Twitter-based forms of feedback directly into my personal statement.

Any process that uses the professional dossier—job applications, annual reviews, award nominations, and promotion—is stressful. Find a way to talk about your work and your impact in a way that feels best and of the highest yield to you. Building on a foundation of mentorship relationships, I hope you feel empowered to fold traditional and non-traditional frameworks into any process that requires you to articulate your impact and reach as a hospitalist. 

Dr. O’Glasser

Dr. O’Glasser

Dr. O’Glasser (@aoglasser) is a professor of medicine, division of hospital medicine, and medical director of the pre-op clinic at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore.

Reference

  1. Boyer EL. The scholarship of engagement. Journal of Public Service and Outreach. 1996;1(1):11-20.