Women in Academic Medicine Symposium Focuses on Creating Leadership Skills and Career Advancement

The Women and Minority Leadership and Professional Development Symposium — a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary event sponsored by the Miller School of Medicine’s Women in Academic Medicine (WIAM) organization — attracted more than 300 professionals on May 13 for a day of medical-career-oriented advice and inspiration at the University of Miami’s Shalala Student Center.

The Symposium was directed by WIAM President Lilian Abbo, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine and Chief of Jackson Health System Infection Control and Antimicrobial Stewardship. Co-Directors were WIAM Vice President Ivette Motola, M.D, M.P.H., associate professor of emergency medicine, Director of the Division of Prehospital and Emergency Healthcare at the Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education, and Nanette Vega, Executive Director of the Miller School’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.

“We must overcome gender bias in both men and women to create a culture of belonging at our university, so each of us feels valued and adds value,” University of Miami President Julio Frenk told the gathering. “By putting our diverse strengths together, we can make a difference here and in our community. Because universities are role models for society, what we do to promote inclusion and diversity shows that an enlightened pathway is possible, and can inspire the world to move in that direction, as well.”

Developing new leadership skills, overcoming subconscious biases and understanding the value of diversity were key themes of the symposium, which was also sponsored by the Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI), The University of Miami Women and Gender Studies, and the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.

The event featured skill-building sessions and presentations by UM deans and faculty members, as well as by distinguished national and international professionals.

“Our goal was to develop a unique program to empower women and minority faculty and executive staff, and develop their leadership skills, while keeping in mind that we need to continue to support each other as we advance in our careers,” said Abbo.

Steven M. Altschuler, M.D., Senior Vice President for Health Affairs and CEO of UHealth, also emphasized those themes in his talk on “Diversity and Inclusion Leadership in Health Care.” He said, “Diversity is also good for our health care business, which supports our academic mission.”

Since 2008, WIAM has held mentoring sessions, conducted CV reviews, and held an annual reception to honor the accomplishments of women faculty, among other faculty development activities.

“I am proud of the progress we have made in the past decade,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Dean of the Miller School of Medicine. Noting that 2009 was the first year in which an equal number of male and female faculty members received tenure, he said, “There is still a lot of work to be done to be sure there are full opportunities for women to become leaders in the medical schools of America.”

Three Miller School leaders were recognized at the symposium for their contributions to WIAM: Norman H. Altman, V.M.D., professor of pathology, Director of the Division of Comparative Pathology, and Miller School ombudsperson; Elaine Van der Put, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., Chief of Strategic Operations at CTSI; and Carl I. Schulman, M.D., M.S.P.H., Ph.D., professor of clinical surgery, Associate Director of the Surgical Residency Training Program and Director of the William Lehman Injury Research Center.

WIAM began planning the May symposium after a needs assessment survey found that leadership development and mentoring were top priorities.

“Our organization’s goal is to improve recruitment, retention, advancement and leadership of women faculty,” said Motola.

Kimberly Reynolds, M.D., assistant professor of clinical pediatrics, and Stephen N. Symes, M.D., professor of medicine and Associate Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, kicked off the symposium with a presentation on “Unconscious Bias and UM Diversity – Where Are We?”

Symes noted that the Miller School’s active faculty includes 511 women and 845 men.

“But it’s not just a matter of counting the numbers,” he said. “We also want to promote a sense of belonging for everyone.”

Reynolds talked about the importance of being aware of implicit biases.

“You have to recognize them within yourself before you can overcome them,” she said.

In her talk, “Valuing the Invaluable: Healthy Women, Healthy Economies,” Felicia Knaul, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences and Director of the Miami Institute for the Americas, spoke about her work with the Lancet Commission on Women and Health, whose findings were published in June 2015.

“Women provide the majority of health care in the world, both paid and unpaid,” she said. “The total value is estimated at $3.1 trillion — about 5 percent of global GDP [gross domestic product]. Investing in fair, non-gender-discriminatory labor policies will produce better health and economic growth — a win-win scenario.”

Sheryl Alonso, professor of management at the School of Business Administration, led one of the symposium’s skill-building sessions — “Get Real: Finding the Authentic Leader Within You.” She said everyone likes a boss who is genuine, trustworthy, has strong values and acts from the heart.

“Authentic leaders have insights, demonstrate initiative, exert influence, have impact and exercise integrity,” Alonso said. “But leadership is not one size fits all. You need to discover and build on your personal strengths, and be true to yourself.”

Luanne E. Thorndyke, M.D., Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, led a workshop entitled “Utilizing Temperaments to Enhance Your Leadership Capacity.” The audience enjoyed a highly interactive session emphasizing the importance of understanding individual personalities — “our colors” — and building teams whose members have diverse temperaments or individual styles.

Later in the symposium, Barbara Fivush, M.D., professor of pediatrics and Associate Dean of Women in Science and Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, urged attendees to write down a personal mission statement, set career goals, and develop a strategy for deciding what projects and opportunities can advance their interests.

In her talk, “Focusing on Your Academic Mission, and Learning When to Say Yes or No,” Fivush said, “You have to think strategically when presented with new opportunities, and say no to distractions. Remember that whenever you turn something down, you are also creating an opportunity to say yes to something else that may better serve your long-term goals.”

Teri Bump, Vice President for University Relations at American Campus Communities, a student housing development company, used her talk, “Executive Presence,” to encourage participants to look at their appearance, hone their communication skills and develop a sense of gravitas. She said high-potential women should stop judging each other and start doing – in other words, take action. “You need to be comfortable with yourself, own your own space, and understand the value you bring to your organization,” she said.

Azita Hamedani, M.D., M.P.H., Chair of the Berbee Walsh Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, spoke on “Sponsors vs. Mentors” — two types of senior advisors who can help junior professionals advance their careers. She noted that mentors provide career advice and psychosocial support, while sponsors play a more active role in opening doors to new opportunities.

The symposium’s session, “Working with Your Dean and Department Chair,” was moderated by Van der Put and Daniel Armstrong, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and psychology, Director of the Mailman Center for Child Development, and interim Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.

After asking panelists for the “pearls” regarding academic leadership, Armstrong said, “You have to tolerate ambiguity and still have confidence to move forward. My job is managing uncertainty.”

Van der Put said leadership is “all about relationships,” and that in order to be a more effective leader, she tries to understand what others are thinking before taking action.

Kathryn Tosney, Ph.D., professor of biology in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences, agreed with that theme, adding that leaders need to achieve “buy-in” from their constituencies.

One of two women chairs at the symposium from the Miller School emphasized the importance of face-to-face communication.

“If you’re facing an important decision, bring all the stakeholders to the table at the same time,” said Omaida C. Velazquez, M.D., professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery.

Judy Schaechter, M.D., M.B.A., associate professor of clinical pediatrics and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, focused on the importance of being an authentic leader.

“You should know your own temperament and personal mission,” she said. “Mine is all about living a life with purpose.”

Panelist Isaac Prilleltensky, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Education and Human Development, and Vice Provost for Institutional Culture, offered seven pearls of leadership:

1. Be organized with timelines, deadlines and agendas, so you can anticipate challenges and plan ahead.
2. Seek the participation of colleagues.
3. Have the utmost integrity, treating everyone with dignity, respect, fairness and transparency.
4. Be responsive to your people, getting back to your subordinates and team members. (“Let them know they matter to you, and fight that feeling of invisibility,” he said.)
5. Get great support from your spouse or partner.
6. Be very disciplined.
7. Cultivate a good sense of humor.

The symposium closed with the networking reception and presentation “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” by Teresa Rodriguez, Co-Anchor of Univision’s Aqui y Ahora. Rodriguez is an award-winning journalist and the first woman to ever host a primetime Spanish language newscast. She shared her personal journey and highlighted the importance of being authentic, always going the extra mile despite adversities in life, being a good speaker and most importantly being a great listener.

Summing up the symposium’s importance to the University of Miami, Frenk said, “I am convinced that if we truly aspire to be an excellent, relevant and exemplary institution, we need to be a leader in the advancement of women in academia.”

A gallery of photographs from the symposium can be found here.

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