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Opinion survey puts faculty in poll position

Published on Monday, July 10, 2017

By: Gary Pettus

Changes at some institutions come around about as often as no-hitters in baseball.

But UMMC has found a way to expand the strike zone and throw the status quo a spitball: Faculty Forward.

A survey created as a way to measure job satisfaction among faculty, its real value is “finding out where we can improve,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

Conducted at UMMC about every two years since 2009, the review has yielded responses that led to these changes or additions, in response to the faculty’s wishes and recommendations:

  • More career development workshops and opportunities, such as, most recently, the Mid-Career Women Faculty Professional Development Workshop
  • More ways of communication, such as VC Notes and the Clinical Intranet
  • More participation in administrative leadership councils and committees
  • New policies and procedures to support promotion and tenure in the School of Medicine

Other areas the survey has brought into focus are communication and openness about, for instance, finance and budgeting; research training opportunities; and more.Lyssa Weatherly, center, assistant professor of medicine, with third year medical medical students.

Before Faculty Forward, “there was no systematic method to assess faculty satisfaction,” said Dr. Patrick Smith, chief faculty affairs officer.

This evaluation tool is purchased from the Association of American Medical Colleges, which has created a standardized list of questions, along with a small number of queries tailored to particular institutions.

At $26,000, “the cost per faculty member is quite nominal compared to what we gain from it,” said Johnson George, director of faculty projects and process design for the Office of Faculty Affairs.

This is especially true considering the participation rate at the Medical Center is one of the best in the nation, he said: 74 percent, overall, for the 2016 version, among the campus’ 900 faculty members.

The faculty’s satisfaction rate is also relatively high – 70 percent, compared to a 65 percent average nationwide.

As for high satisfaction measures with “my job,” it was 81 percent for School of Medicine faculty, 88 percent for all other schools.

Faculty Forward is a way for faculty members to open up about their concerns, without revealing their identity, Smith said.

“There is no way we can see what any faculty member wrote,” he said. “There is an absolute firewall that protects anonymity. There is no identifier tied to it.

“And any faculty member can look at any of the survey results. All have been provided with information on how to get access to the report.”Kathy Rhodes, assistant professor of nursing, left, is one of around 900 faculty members who were asked to participate in the 2016 Faculty Forward survey.

UMMC’s first forays into Faculty Forward – in 2009, 2011 and 2013 – were limited to the School of Medicine; at first, the AAMC designed the survey for medical schools only.

But, in 2015, the AAMC came up with a pilot Faculty Forward vehicle for non-medical schools, and UMMC’s took it for a spin.

The following year, in October of 2016, all schools took part together. Smith, George and Vickie Skinner, project manager for the Office of Faculty Affairs, organized Faculty Forward and broke down the findings.

They are also leading the way to make improvements before the next survey pops up, in October 2018.

“We are sharing the results, and the chairs and deans are deep diving into the data,” George said. “It’s getting a lot of attention and visibility. Dr. Woodward is taking awareness to a higher level.”

The effort and cost have been worth it, Woodward said. “We’ve made changes for the better and more are coming. This is making a difference.”


Faculty members who have questions about gaining access to the 2016 Faculty Forward survey may call the Office of Faculty Affairs, 601-984-5003.