Alternative Career Paths

Susan Spear, M.D.
Exec VP, Physician Partners Co., NY Presbyterian Health Care Network

Tailoring a path in academic medicine to suit your own personal needs*

  1. Find combinations of work and family time that work for you - be creative.
  2. Your career development can be a series of modules with a longer time course between setting and achieving goals rather than multiple intense roles, simultaneously.
  3. Know what you are trading off when you make non-traditional career choices - be analytically clear to yourself, your boss, and your family.
  4. Compose modular career, with timetable and reentry goals.
  5. Explore available reentry grants for scientific investigation.
  6. Prior to reembarking on the traditional academic ladder, train as a post-doc or clinical fellow in a newly emerging underpopulated field.
  7. Empty nest can release enormous energy which could be directed to a single professional focus.
  8. During the "divided phase" of one's career, there is the challenge to balance time or attention to work, children, husband, patients, doctors, students, and oneself. Accept the fact that no one will ever get enough attention.


  • Own the implications and the impact of your choices on your career
  • Value your own sense of when to say "yes" and when to say "no"
  • Find a sympathetic boss and develop explicit mutual expectations
  • Find people to support you - multiple mentors for each "module" of your career
  • Get management and leadership training
  • Realize you can't have it all

*The final version of the experts' presentations have been edited by Sandra K. Masur, Ph.D.(WFG President), Miki Rifkin, Ph.D.(WFG Vice President) often from notes of Kathryn Kaplan, Ph.D.,MSSM Consultant, Organizational Development.

Back to Academic Development and Advancement