In his first presentation before the College of Medicine, new Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Development Alex Lentsch, PhD, brought two questions before the audience.
He asked them first to consider "How do we set up our faculty to succeed?” before proposing a revised version: "how should we set up our faculty to succeed?”
Emphasizing the roles of clarity, candor and mentorship to the process of faculty development, Lentsch said the strength of the college’s faculty is directly tied to its clinical, research and educational endeavors.
"The missions of the College of Medicine are based on our faculty—and the quality of our faculty dictates the success of those missions,” he said.
Lentsch was appointed to the new position in September 2013 by Dean Thomas Boat, MD, after serving for eight years as vice chairman for research in the department of surgery, a position he still holds.
As a senior associate dean, Lentsch has spent the past seven months assisting departments in recruiting new faculty and working with the dean to recruit chairs and institute leaders, among them Peter White, PhD, for the new department of biomedical informatics, Jun-Lin Guan, PhD, to chair cancer biology, and Richard Becker, MD, to lead the UC Cardiovascular Institute.
Further, he said the college plans to invest more than $36 million to add 33 researchers in nephrology, neurology, neurosciences, pathology and physiology in the next few years. But he noted that this recent growth has come during some trying times.
"We have had major changes with regard to every mission in our college,” he says. "Those changes have been borne on the backs of our faculty. It hasn’t always been an easy road, but what’s more remarkable than the changes and the challenges we face are the accomplishments we’ve made over that time.”
Among those accomplishments, he cited the growth of clinical programs, such as transplantation, in a competitive regional market, the development of a student-focused medical school curriculum and a continued impressive research reputation for the college, despite recent reductions in grant funding.
But in order to continue and enhance those gains, Lentsch says the college needs to keep some challenges in mind moving forward.
With the help from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, he said, the college is on "solid ground” with respect to recruiting minority and women faculty.
"But we can do better,” he added. "We must be very diligent moving forward to ensure our applicant pools are representative.”
Future recruitment efforts also should be directed by the makeup of the particular department. For example, Lentsch noted a need for an influx of new faculty in basic science areas, where the majority of faculty members are at the full professor level. But for clinical departments, with a large percentage of new hires, he discussed the importance of career development and mentorship early on to guide new physicians.
Mentorship, in particular, he said, should start in orientation and become ingrained in our culture: "it should be something we do for each other and for our institution, to make us all stronger and more successful.”
Though he emphasized that faculty development should be carried out at the unit level and not as a top-down, prescriptive approach, Lentsch said there are many college-level offices that can serve as a resource for faculty members in training others or developing their own careers.
Among those are the Office of Faculty Affairs, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training, UC’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning and the Office of Faculty Development, a partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Working together, he said the college can ensure "that we invest in our faculty to develop their abilities and skills, promote their excellence and reward their successes.”
"This, he concluded, " will help us be strong in every one of our missions—because our faculty are the College of Medicine.”