My New Baby

Oct 09 2014 Published by under Learning

What do you call 100 babies in a single litter?

What do you call 100 babies in a single litter?

Hard copies arrived! My new book, The Promotion Game, arrived in a big box.

I never realized how proud I would feel to see my work in print and hold it in my hands.

It's almost like giving birth to something, except without the blood.

If you are interested in succeeding in academic medicine, this book may be for you. You can get more information here.

Ebooks are expected to be available soon on Amazon and the other usual venues.

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High Stakes Games

Oct 08 2014 Published by under Learning

Too many new faculty in academic medicine get lost.

They sign on with academic medical centers with the best intentions. They want to inspire the next generation of providers. They want to solve healthcare problems. They hope to make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, academic medicine provides many distractions.

Unlike our PhD colleagues*, we MDs often fail to teach our trainees anything about academic life. I came from an academic family. I knew about ranks and tenure and other issues, but I still didn't really know how to succeed in The Ivory Tower. Someone gave me the Faculty Handbook, including promotion and tenure (P&T) guidelines, when I showed up at my first job.

Yes, I wrote it all down!

Yes, I wrote it all down!

Have you ever read a faculty handbook? Have you ever tried to read a faculty handbook? These documents tend to be written with stilted dry language. The handbook for an entire campus also keeps things vague enough that it applies to all departments and sections; this provides little guidance for a new assistant professor. You have to find contacts who can give you the real dirt. How many papers are considered "a significant number?" What sort of funding counts toward the tally? Will case reports be held against you? How do you document your educational efforts?

Mentorship helps (those contacts described above). P&T workshops with department-specific information can help. Unfortunately, none of these can be used as a lasting reference. Clinician faculty, in particular, often lose sight of their goal. Patient care responsibilities and other tasks can distract them from achieving and documenting the things that matter for academia. They get a few years into their first appointment and discover that they are behind the eight ball. Many leave academic medicine at this point.

That's why I have written down wisdom collected from multiple institutions and many colleagues. I have tried to keep this brief guide chatty and useful, rather than an academic tome. Yes, it is vague in that it gives no specifics for any institution; however, it does help faculty members know what to ask their colleagues and mentors.

When you get down to it, P&T is really a game. You have rules, you reach milestones, you keep score, and eventually you can win.

Yes, this is my Big Surprise. The book is debuting soon, both in print and as an ebook. Learn more at the website, ThePromotionGame.com.


*Instead, our PhD colleagues prepare everyone for an academic career, even though we know there are not enough positions for every trainee and many will have to pursue careers outside of The Ivory Tower.

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Half-a-Century of Discovery

May 22 2014 Published by under Women in Medicine, Women in Science

Today I posted over at Academic Women for Equality Now (awenow.org), another website and blog I run. The topic was Nancy Hopkins' amazing baccalaureate address at Boston University in which she proclaims unconscious bias as one of the most important discoveries of the past 50 years.

Click on over for a quick summary and a link to the full text of her speech; I suspect it will resonate with most of my readers.

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Clinical Research: More than an extension of patient care

Apr 24 2014 Published by under Research issues

When I started my first faculty appointment, I planned to have a lab. My techniques could be performed on human or animal specimens, so I could move between the worlds of clinical and basic science research with ease. I got a fairly standard deal for the time - 70% protected time for the lab. By the time you realize that all vacation and meetings come out of that protected time, as does the paperwork and documentation that accompanies clinical practice, that protection really only gives you about half of your time. In my case, that was enough, at least until the NIH budget collapsed in the Great Recession.

Recently, I have heard of new clinicians trying to set up clinical research programs. Now, clinical research does involve patients, but it is not merely an extension of patient care. Clinical research is something completely outside of the realm of usual care. I have seen assistant professors with only 30% protected time written into their contracts to develop a clinical research career! Clinical research also requires as much support as a bench lab. Sure, I needed space and all sorts of expensive equipment for my work; however, I could analyze a rat experiment myself and control a lot of variables. When people get involved, all control flies out the window. This means more statistical support up front in the design phase of a study, as well as more analysis to help control for those unanticipated things that make all studies flawed in some way.

I once pointed this out to a chair who said that if they got a grant with salary support then they could have more protected time. Yes, those grants find their way to deserving faculty who have no time carved out to develop a track record and publications...

I find it disturbing that we set junior faculty up for failure this way, with incredibly unrealistic expectations.

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Why I Will Be There: #Scio14

Nov 15 2013 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Thursday I did something I have never done before; I sat at my computer waiting for 2:00 pm CST when I could start clicking the link for Science Online Together 2014. All went well for me, and I will be returning to Raleigh in February for another round of the unconference.

Some have recently made clear their intentions to not be at the upcoming gathering (see here and here). Several factors entered into my alternate decision.

I came to Science Online at a different point in my journey from many others. I had scaled the rarified heights of academia to become a tenured full professor. As I embarked on a new journey, to create a news magazine for the American Society of Nephrology, I needed to learn about new-fangled things like blogging and Facebook and Twitter. Science Online 2011, my virgin year, gave me insights into the interactions possible between academic and popular media, as well as the potential interplay of Web 2.0 content and the dead tree media of my youth. That was the last really "small" Science Online, with our venue at Sigma Xi bursting with energy. I felt like I met most of the attendees at some point in time, and I learned a lot that has been put to work in my professional life. Sessions on narrative structure and writing tools have enriched my work as well. I now give talks to faculty about ways to get writing done, much of which is information intially gathered via Science Online sessions. I have recruited several articles for ASN Kidney News from Science Online participants. The magazine also hires journalists for events, so some of these are paying gigs for the freelancers in the crowd!

I also have a guilty secret. One of the reasons I love academic medicine is my love of writing. Had I not been a doctor, I likely would have majored in English and ultimately gone on to an advanced writing degree of some sort. Most academics do not understand this attitude; they hate the writing, even while acknowledging its role in their success. Attending Science Online was like visiting the Mother Ship. All of these people who liked science and writing existed! I was not alone! I also love it now when my husband likes a book, and I can say I have met the author.

Like all meetings, Science Online is not just about work. Evenings include a lot of chatting and networking (and often drinking), just like those at my professional meetings. If anything, I attend more sessions at Science Online than at "real science" meetings, simply because the unconference venue is not adjacent to the hotel. Once you are there, you may as well be in a discussion session since you can't run back to your room and "work on your paper" (AKA chill out with Diet Coke and a novel or daytime TV).

This will be my fourth Science Online, and I see the meeting at a crossroads. First, the venue (North Carolina State University McKimmon Center) and participants expanded in 2012 and 2013. Many of these participants remain unfamiliar to me; the meeting has already crossed the "intimacy" line (and not in the slimey sense of the word; you know what I'm talking about). Also, last year the informal organizational group became a real entity with a dot-com web site. Spin-off conferences, in a variety of locales and on selected topics, sprung up in 2013 as well. The people and concept of Science Online are evolving, and growing pains are inevitable. Will Science Online become a more formal organization with a bigger, more professional conference? Or will it step back and downsize into several smaller gatherings in an attempt to maintain the "community" feel?

I do not know which way things will go, but I plan to make my opinions known. If things proceed in a direction I do not like, I may be writing one of those "Why I'm Not" posts next year. In the meantime, I know I have achieved things I would not have without the Science Online experience. I will be there in 2014, for the learning and the party - just like every other meeting I attend.

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Down with Glam; Up with Fast & Cheap

Apr 03 2013 Published by under Publication, Research issues

A lot of folks are trying to reinvent the way we share research. I cannot remember the last time I read a paper journal; even with traditional publishing models, the dead tree format ends up in the recycling. When I need to know something, I search online via PubMed or Google Scholar. Topics I want to keep up-to-date at all times have shared searches that update me periodically.

Some journals will now be online-only, either with a fairly traditional publishing model or a more liberal acceptance policy (PLoS One, for example). Platforms such as Figshare allow investigators to make raw data publicly available and citable, even if not included in the final paper for a study. Recently, Beyond the PDF 2 took place in Amsterdam where visionaries gathered to once again discuss the printing press of this century. More information can be found about this conference and conversation here.

PeerJAfter scanning this discussion, I began playing around with PeerJ. The model is intriguing; you pay a lifetime fee up front. You can freely pre-publish works (PeerJ PrePrints) and get public feedback . With a mouse-click, you can send your manuscript to peer review which will be based on scientific soundness of the research without attention to impact or "sex-appeal" factor of the work. The goal here is PLoS One without the high publication fees. For $99 you can become a basic lifetime member, able to submit unlimited public "pre-publications" and publish one peer-reviewed article for life. Of course, you will be expected to also review at least one article for life. All authors on the article must have memberships; if you wait until article acceptance to join, fees will be ~30% greater. Right now, content in PeerJ is limited to biomedical science and health issues. PeerJ only publishes research articles. Literature review articles, commentaries, case reports and other works may instead be submitted to PeerJ PrePrints.

My biggest concern took some digging about the web site:

PeerJ will be indexed in all major Abstracting & Indexing databases, including for example PubMed, PubMedCentral, GoogleScholar, and Microsoft Academic Search. We will also be applying for indexed status in services such as MedLine and Web of Science.

This model certainly has the right price; $99 runs less than the page fees for my last journal submission. As a senior professor, this site may be perfect for some of my less impressive results that I just want to get out there. When I was early in my career, PeerJ would have let me get some new data peer-reviewed and published and still make my grant deadline.

What other new-wave publishing services deserve exploration? Any Whizbangers have experience with PeerJ or similar platforms?

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Reversing Courses

Dec 19 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers], Learning

Back in November I had the pleasure of hearing Sal Khan, founder of www.khanacademy.org, address the Association of American Medical Colleges Annual Meeting. He described how a stint of long-distance tutoring of his niece led to a revolutionary platform of free online education. He is one of those speakers who immediately connects with his audience, making  you feel like everyone can learn from him. The talk can be viewed on the AAMC website, although it does require registration through an AAMC member school.

Click to Amazon

Now almost finished with his book, I know even more about Khan's amazing journey from hedge fund manager to educator. The One World School House: Education Reimagined begins with the journey of his talk, but pulls in adult learning theory and other educational science that supports his methods. He knew none of this when he developed his videos and software; he just instinctively moved in this direction.

A visit to the Academy videos shows very basic media. While the narrator describes a process, the lesson gets illustrated in several basic colors on a blackboard-like screen. No lighting, no faces, and no fancy animations (see below).

Very Simple

Very Simple

"Flipping lectures" has received a lot of attention in higher education in the past 5 years. Khan's methods essentially fit this model; information gets delivered by video or text book and class time is used for problem-solving and other active learning with teachers. Students like this approach, and studies to date suggest that all students do better. Students predicted to score low do well, and those predicted to do well do even better.

Last fall, when I taught fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base pathophysiology to second year medical students, I took this approach. I had text-and-figure handouts in PDF format already. I then took my PowerPoint slides and narrated them, turning them into video files the students could view whenever. Class time involved case-based questions that the students could discuss among themselves and then answer. We then went over the answers and rationale.

Yes, this took a lot of work on my part ahead of the class. It was a lot more fun for me than lecturing to a group of droopy-eyed students.

One barrier I see to flipping lectures involves video production. Faculty often complain that they do not have the software or equipment to set up the videos. They do not want to put effort into that sort of production.

Of course, nothing is necessary besides their computer with a microphone and their lecture slides. PowerPoint now has a "Save As Video File" option on both the Windows and Mac platforms. As we can see from the Khan videos, nothing fancy is required for learning. Clear presentation and illustration is most important.

I have made a video about making PowerPoint videos. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

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What I Am Reading: Better Presentation Design Version

Oct 10 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

When I first started in this business, slides were actual slides. With our early model computers, we carefully printed out our slides, had them photographed, and collected our 35 mm slides for loading in carousels. If the presentation were a big deal, like a national meeting, our art staff would generate blue diazo slides.

Soon we had PowerPoint. For a hefty fee, we could purchase full color slides. As the cost of slide printers dropped, we began to see the unfortunate consequences of eliminating designers and artists from this process. Now, with inexpensive digital projectors (some of which can present from your iPhone) we not only face the dilemma of unlimited colors, but also the potential for motion sickness from ill-advised animations and transitions.

Click to Amazon

I cannot remember where I stumbled across the recommendation for slide:ology by Nancy Duarte, but I am grateful. You probably know her group's work; they designed a little slide show for Al Gore called An Inconvenient Truth.

I have made my way through 80% of the book now. In general, it recommends a "less is more" approach. Uncluttered backgrounds, limited words, and striking images improve most presentations. Most chapters include before and after slides. If I could boil the book down to one line, it would be something like:

Step away from the templates!

My favorite part so far is the chapter on creating movement. We need to view our presentations not as a series of slides, but with a more cinematic approach. Careful use of animations and transitions can achieve this effect. I have screenshots of a double-paged spread below, illustrating a series of slides:

Click to enlarge

For those of you who cannot see the movement generated through transitions, color, and graphics, I captured images of each slide and put them into PowerPoint to generate this video. Please forgive the fuzziness of the enlargements!

Academics depend on clear presentations to get our message across. When was the last time you felt inspired by a slide show?

I thought so.

slide:ology is available in both dead tree and electronic format. Click, buy and make your slides better.

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Book, Paper, Blog

This week a perfect storm descended on me, including a book, a paper, and a blog post:

All of these deal with the ongoing gender bias in our society, but particularly in our workplaces. Yes, men are at fault, but we XX folks are not blameless, either. My full thoughts on the integration of these readings is over at Academic Women for Equality Now. Please read that post, then get the book and peruse the other materials online.

Now think about how we can overcome these subtle, less blatant issues. Comment here or at awenow.org or at Zuska's place. We need to work together instead of against each other!

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Academic Archetypes

Jul 19 2012 Published by under Fashion (or not)

I just read a nice post on fashion in academia. Holy oxymorons, Batman! Daniel Myers' essay on Inside Higher Ed should be read in its entirety, but I have quoted the highlight below: academic fashion archetypes. If you see yourself, grab a credit card and head to the mall-it's makeover time!

 Twenty popular faculty styles **

1. I’m not an Oxford professor, but I play one at Notre Dame.

2. This outfit worked at IBM in 1957, so why not wear it every day?

3. Why tuck in my shirt? I’ll just have to do it again tomorrow.

4. Bow ties say “intellectual,” are not the slightest bit nerdy and, as a bonus, they emphasize my growing midsection.

5. Versace Monday, Armani Wednesday: I’m sure to get a red hot pepper on ratemyprofessors.com.

6. I don’t have time to iron. I was up all night changing how we understand the fundamental building blocks of the entire universe.

7. That hole burned by 18 molar hydrochloric acid isn’t that bad. Why waste a perfectly functional pair of pants?

8. If you can get it at Sears, it’s still in style.

9. Suspenders and a belt. I teach security studies after all.

10. No one will notice I’m wearing black tennis shoes with this suit.

11. I need those elbow patches. Reading is hard work!

12. Polyester is the new black.

13. My gigantic glasses from 1987 are still in perfectly good shape. I think I’ll just replace the lenses.

14. Peace and love. It’s still the ’60s, isn’t it?

15.This leather jacket will let them know that I’m cool, man... I mean, dude.

16. I’m a low-level administrator, but I really, really, really want to be a high-level administrator.

17. I wanna wear jeans! But I’d better make it formal by adding a blazer.

18. It’s not that dirty. It was on the top of the laundry hamper.

19. My black pants aren’t too short. How else am I going to show off my new white socks?

20.To tweed or not to tweed? That is the question. And the answer is: To tweed!!

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