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,

*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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Reap What You Sow

Sep 10 2014 Published by under [LifeTrajectories]

While in my fellowship, I became interested in the role of puberty and sex in the progression of kidney disease. I studied this and related sex differences in the renal responses for more than 20 years. Then the NIH would not, could not bring itself to fund my work. My spouse had a new job offer, and the writing on the wall was clear: I closed my lab and moved into full-time clinical medicine.

From this perspective, I can appreciate NPR's series on the state of NIH funding and folks quitting science. At least I knew my clinical skills made me employable, although at times I dream of running a distillery.

Of course, there is the additional irony of the NIH calling for more study of both sexes, even in basic science studies, earlier this year. Gee, exactly what I was doing that was not important enough to merit funding...and now you are issuing special calls for it. Any regrets, NIH?

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Mean Girls

May 16 2014 Published by under Feminist Musings

When LL was an actress, not a punchline...


The Queen Bee phenomenon can be quite distressing for women who aspire to leadership roles. This term describes a woman who achieves and then believes that having other women achieve will diminish her own achievements. Queen Bees tend to ascribe their own success to a lack of "girliness" and suggest that all women could achieve at the same level if they just followed her example. For a review of this behavior and some research on it, click here.

Mean Girls ostracize women who fail to fit in. In the 2004 movie, the top clique demeaned those who marched to a different drummer, failing to aspire to their standards. You simply can't have that; if anyone can set their own goals, how will those at the top of the pecking order continue to win?

In this month's issue of Journal of Women's Health (23 (5):365-7, 2014), Janet Bickel discusses some of the reasons women may hamper other women. Many factors enter into this behavior, including the lack of open competition in many girls' activities. Our female children have traditionally been funneled into activities without winners; instead of beating someone, they turn their aggression and ambition into gossip and other mental bullying.

It will be interesting to see if this behavior changes over time; more girls have been in competitive sports now, and even dance and cheer have become events with winners.

Another difficulty many women face is the overlap between their work relationships and friendships. Social relationships are often expected to trump "chain of command" relationships, even in work situations. This can be especially a problem between female physicians and nurses, as discussed in the article.

This piece gives us more to think about than immediate solutions, but studies on these phenomena are few and far between. Lucky for us, the article is open access, so you have no excuse not to click the link above (or here) and think. In the meantime, we should all keep these words from Madeleine Albright in mind:

“There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."



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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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Lessons Learned

Sep 17 2013 Published by under [LifeTrajectories]

Career setbacks happen. Examination of the literature reveals little good advice for dealing with "lemons instead of lemonade." In general, the advice falls into two categories:

  1. If you are not failing, you are not trying. Keep trying and you will eventually succeed.
  2. Analyze what went wrong and learn your lesson(s).
Standard Advice

Standard Advice

I call the first one Cheerleader and the second Sage. Neither tells you how to cope.

Truth be told, I have explored the stages of grief that we all have heard about by now. Shock lasted about a day, with denial covering just a brief moment of that day. Anger and depression tag-teamed with each other, sometimes entering the ring together to hit me with virtual chairs. I never really got the chance to bargain about anything.

The past 2-3 months have included a bunch of introspective navel-gazing. My friends will tell you that this activity is not one of my major skills, but I had to do it. I needed to know what I wanted to do. I had to put in this mental effort to figure out what I wanted my career to be, and how I would move on.

I have now accepted my course. I will no longer have a title, but I plan to continue working in faculty development, on my own campus and others.

I do have some advice for others who find themselves on an unexpected path to a set-back. Stuff that is neither Cheerleader nor Sage.

  1. Dealing will take time. Most advice out there makes you think you should brush yourself off and get right back on the horse. Frankly, you probably have some bruises and cuts that could use some mending. You and the horse could both stand to cool off a bit as well. Don't be afraid to curl up and lick some wounds. Try not to excessively wallow in self-pity. (It's a fine line that friends and family can help you define.)
  2. Be nice to yourself. You will find yourself reliving every interaction that may have influenced your situation. You will likely find things you don't like, that you should have handled differently. And most of this will have no role in whatever happened. Try not to punish yourself; withholding ice cream or pizza or other enjoyments will not change the situation. New shoes can be great therapy (my A2 rejection pumps are still lovely).

The Cheerleader and the Sage are ultimately correct - you will eventually have to take more risks, and you will have the wisdom of this situation to guide your new efforts.

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The Question is How: Coaching vs. Mentoring

Mar 01 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Will Andy Reid use this technique with My Chiefs?(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)(Credit: AP) Click to original posting.

Everyone agrees that traditional degrees do not provide all the skills necessary to succeed in any endeavor. We constantly learn new things from ongoing education and from colleagues. Mentoring has received the most attention. We may also have coaches, often individuals paid to guide our career issues. Mentors may be unaware that we consider them mentors. Coaches may be certified and making their living. What is the difference between a coach and a mentor? Is payment the issue?

In the January/February issue of PEJ (the Physician Executive Journal of the American College of Physician Executives) two academics with business backgrounds, Robert Hicks and John McCracken, address this issue first thing:

Mentoring is appropriate when the individual asks for the benefit of your experience or advice on what course of action she should take. Alternatively, a coaching response is called for when your colleague would be best served by arriving at her own conclusions about what she should do.

So mentoring is like a lecture, while coaching resembles an interactive problem solving session. To further clarify:

Coaching is the art and science of facilitating an individual's self-directed discovery and change. It's a collaborative activity designed to help a person think through a stituation with greater depth and clarity than they could do on their own, and come up with actionable goals to which they are willing to commit.

Their article focuses on coach-able moments, brief interactions in hallways or conference rooms. They call these "popcorn coaching" opportunities.

For example, a colleague states something they do not want - "I'm sick and tired of Dr. Smith condescending to me."

How do you take this statement from a mere complaint into an actionable goal? Such a goal must be stated in the positive, and it has to be under the person's control. Asking what the person wants may get a positive statement, but not something that this person can control, such as - "I want Dr. Smith to show me more consideration."

Let's face it, we all know a Dr. Smith. If external forces could have altered his/her behavior, it would have happened long ago.

At this point, a mentor might offer to chat with Dr. Smith or provide other advice. A coach instead asks what the colleague might do to improve the situation. What end-point would they like to see?

The situation requires no diagnosis, and this brief encounter will not cure the situation. The intent is to guide your colleague toward improvement of the situation through actions within their control.  It may take repeated versions of this question to get your colleague thinking in this direction; after all, Dr. Smith is the condescending jerk here.

I have been coaching for years, especially with my children. Until now, I just did not know it!

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More on Sponsors Plus Bonus Squee

Aug 02 2012 Published by under Women in Medicine, Women in Science

I have written before about sponsors versus mentors. Today at my other place, Academic Women for Equality Now, Rania Anderson gives her advice on this topic. Rania is President of The Way Women Work, a career and business advice site for women around the world.

Click here to read her post.

As an added bonus, a friend sent me a series of photos yesterday. A deer has been visiting a cat, and the cat's staff (some would say owner, but we who live with cats know who serves whom) took photos. As a public service, I am posting one here:

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Welcome to My Weekend

Empowering today's leaders to guide tomorrow's healthcare enterprise

I spent another weekend (OK, a long, Thursday through Sunday weekend) on the road in Philadelphia. This time I attended the first meeting of a group now called Women Executives in Science & Healthcare (WESH).  This group consists of men and women who have middle- and upper-level management positions in academic medicine and dentistry and public health. As part of our recent rebranding, we developed the following definition:

Integrated network of executive leaders in healthcare & science across the academic health enterprise

We want to bridge the walls between disciplines both within and outside of academia. We hope to attract C-suite women in healthcare: Chief Legal Officers, Chief Medical Officers, and others in healthcare management who do not necessarily have a healthcare or science degree. Managers in biotech and pharma will also be interested in the networking opportunities provided by this group.

The educational portion of the Spring Summit, dedicated to Renewal and Redirection, can be found here. While not the largest gathering of twitterati on the planet, a handful of folks provided enough thoughts to produce this Storify:

[<a href="" target="_blank">View the story "WESH Spring Summit 2012" on Storify</a>]<br /> <h1>WESH Spring Summit 2012</h1> <h2>Women Executives in Science &amp; Healthcare is an integrated network of executive leaders in healthcare &amp; science across the academic health enterprise. We held our Spring Summit May 4-6 in Philadelphia, dedicated to our theme, Renew &amp; Redirect. </h2> <p>Storified by Pascale Lane &middot; Mon, May 07 2012 13:23:18</p> <div><a target="_blank" href="">Meeting Program</a></div> <div> <h2>Friday, May 4: Opening Reception</h2> </div> <div>Shopping for our cause. #WESH12 Lane</div> <div>With a nice spread of finger food and wine, we chatted and shopped for our renamed group.</div> <div> <h2>Saturday, May 5</h2> </div> <div>Summit beginning with Janet Bickel addressing Resilience. #WESH12WESH</div> <div>At this stage our careers less like juggling, more like gardening an unruly plot, trying to make it grow. #WESH12Pascale Lane</div> <div>Success and failure are not necessarily opposites. May be self-defined. #WESH12Pascale Lane</div> <div>Janet Bickel addressing our full conference room. #WESH12 Lane</div> <div>&quot;No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up with events.&quot; Janet Bickel #WESH12WESH</div> <div>Success = (Purpose x Talent)^Culture - Janet Bickel #WESH12WESH</div> <div>Looking for logic in all the wrong places = major mojo killer. M Goldsmith #WESH12Pascale Lane</div> <div>Next up: Ann Bonham, first female Chief Science Officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges</div> <div>Know that you are always being evaluated. Ann Bonham #WESH12WESH</div> <div>RT @WomenESH: What do you want to be known for? Ann Bonham #WESH12Pascale Lane</div> <div>Power networking at #WESH12 Follow @WomenESH for more info. Lane</div> <div>After the break, it's time for our presidential address.</div> <div>President Elisabeth Kunkel addresses #WESH12WESH</div> <div>After lunch, we are back to the program</div> <div>Robert Taylor and Karen Novielli discuss hiring, firing and moving people on. #WESH12WESH</div> <div>Great case discussions on hiring and firing issues. #WESH12Pascale Lane</div> <div>Business meeting, open to all registered participants</div> <div>Business meeting now, then dinner. Middle eastern food tonight! #WESH12WESH</div> <div>New president is Elizabeth Travis of MD Anderson. #WESH12WESH</div> <div> <h2>Sunday, May 6</h2> </div> <div>Gen X and beyond by @JenLLane today. #WESH12WESH</div> <div>Great Job today by @JenLLane speaking at the Women Executives in Leadership &amp; Healthcare Conference! #WESH12Philly PR Girl</div> <div>@kevinknebl speaking about linkedIn at #WESH12Jennifer Lane</div> <div>Working on a Sunday is sometimes worth it! Listening to @kevinknebl speak about #SocialMedia at the #WESH12 meeting.Philly PR Girl</div> <div>It doesn't matter what u do, ure long-term success is based on relationships #WESH12Jennifer Lane</div> <div>Social media platforms are communication tools, nothing more. #WESH12WESH</div> <div>Great advice from Kevin Knebl about social networking. #WESH12Pascale Lane</div> <div>LinkedIn is the largest business database in the world. Ur profile is ur business card. #WESH12Jennifer Lane</div> <div>Change ur public profile url to ur name and place under email signature #WESH12Jennifer Lane</div> <div>Add a video showing who u are on linkedIn profile to show experience and who u are #WESH12Jennifer Lane</div> <div>LinkedIn has its own seo build in #WESH12Jennifer Lane</div>Want to know more about WESH or think you might want to join? Click the links and learn more at our brand-spanking-new web site!

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Meeting & Greeting

Apr 09 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

An interesting post at Science News addresses the costs of conferences. All sorts of issues arise, including shrinking travel budgets, environmental costs of all that air travel, preliminary work that becomes "permanent", and even the number of trees used to generate program books. Having been in the biomedical science biz for 20+ years now, I have survived several waves of "let's quit meeting and just do this online." Conferences will never go away for one reason: we like them.

Bumping into new contacts in the Exhibit Hall

Oh, I hear people complaining about taking time away from their work and family. We all gripe about time spent in airports. Yet we all keep submitting and accepting and going because nothing replaces face-to-face interactions for us human beings.

There is value in meeting potential colleagues and reviewers. Some of the best ideas and collaborations get built around informal conversations when you toss a group of people with something in common together. Big keynote addresses could just as easily be done via the net, but those do not keep me on the road. No, it's the chance to meet new people who will help me think about things in a new way. I always consider a meeting successful if I get one new idea to explore.

Last month my department had a panel discussion about working a meeting, directed at our trainees and junior faculty. Those of us on the panel all agreed that networking (there's that word again) was why we paid for attendance. You never know who may be important in reviewing your work or getting you hired sometime down the line. Even if you really only connect with other trainees, you will learn more stuff about what other programs are like (you may be in nirvana and not know it). You may meet someone who will be hiring when you are ready for a second job. You may meet someone who will be reviewing you on their first study-section assignment. You will learn something from everyone you meet. Think of it as being mentored by a hive of "E-Bees".

There are some tips we gave our n00bs to make their networking easier. First, get a professional non-university email. You do not want all your job offers and conversations going through your university accounts. You also do not want to use an address that is too personal; "" or "" will not impress potential colleagues. If it does, you probably do not want that job. Figure out some permutation of your name and/or science and get that gmail account set up now. As someone who recently changed jobs, it was wonderful to have a "permanent" email to use as my university account went dead.

Next we suggested business cards. Even in the age of the electronic frontier, the humble piece of dead tree remains the most accepted method of exchanging contact information. You're a trainee and they don't make cards for you? Do it yourself! Anyone with a computer and printer can buy a pack at the office store and have reasonable cards in less than an hour. Yes, some people will exchange cards and then throw yours out in the airport. Some new acquaintances will put you in their contacts. That's the way it works. You will do the same.

Finally, consider starting an online presence. If you aren't up to a full-fledged website, at least start on LinkedIn (this link takes you to my public profile as an example). The networking site for professionals essentially puts your resume into your profile. Upload a nice photo of your face, and you're in business. Eventually, you will make connections on the site. Some of us even get the odd job offer via LinkedIn (wrong place, wrong time, but otherwise something I would have jumped at). It will not yet replace emailing your CV, but it does give you an online presence that should not provide any embarrassing personal details. Eventually you will find useful information here via interest groups and discussions.

Finally, remember that the real meeting takes place away from the microphone. Casual discussions in hallways and restaurants and bars are more important than plenary sessions (unless you are on the platform, and even then...).

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