Developing a National Reputation and an Academic Career*

Arthur Aufses, M.D.
Professor of Surgery

Diane Meier, M.D.
Professor of Geriatrics & Adult Development

In order to climb the rung on MSSM's academic ladder to Associate Professor, "... For those whose primary responsibilities are in research, it is expected that such individuals will have national recognition, funded research support and internal recognition of the potential for continued growth."

National recognition

  • Publish - block your calendar with set times to write and stick to them.
  • If you are in a department focused mostly on clinical service, to sequester time to write on a consistent basis, create schedules with colleagues to provide blocks of "free time."
  • Develop a well-defined niche within your specialty so that you are the expert. With the right timing this can be achieved more easily in an emerging field.
  • In addition to research papers, write a review paper in your field.
  • Collaborate - but be wary of multi-center trials that eat up your research time without compensatory reward for your career development. Remember, the investigator who initiates the study will get maximum credit.
  • National Meetings – Choose carefully. If it is a choice between finding the time to go to a meeting or to write a peer-reviewed article, choose the latter.
  • Many national clinical organizations have local affiliates that can serve as a more convenient networking base.
  • When you attend a national meeting, make connections Ask questions during slide presentations, speak with major presenters in your field, actively participate by joining a committee.
  • Use e-mail to follow-up on mentoring opportunities and to build relationships.
  • NIH study section membership - good for learning about the best research in your field and about the criteria for evaluating proposals. You also get known by key players in the field. Less productive: Site visit study section - a lot of effort for little reward in terms of your reputation.
  • Inform yourself about criteria and deadlines for awards and elected membership in professional organizations (e.g. ASCI, see WFG Web site). Develop a nomination and election strategy and timetable.

Basic Career Decisions

  • Manage your time, look at mail once, answer e-mails one hour a day and that's it.
  • To fund early research projects for a small, good idea, target grant applications to foundations or small grant programs. This can provide preliminary data for RO1's or other major grants.
  • Find a mentor. It could be your chair or someone else. Identify someone who is doing what you could see yourself doing in 10 years. The mentor should enjoy his or her work and would choose that again.
  • Discover what you want to do with your life. Start with yourself and what makes you want to come to work each day. Compare these goals with what the institution wants you to do, and if they are not synonymous... Find your own success and satisfaction.


  • Don't get overwhelmed; it's a lifelong process to work your way up.
  • The glass ceiling is there to be broken.
  • Support women in medicine and science.
  • Encourage the provision of day care at meetings and work.

And remember that "In science, the credit goes to the (wo)man who convinces the world, not to the (wo)man to whom the idea first occurs." Sir William Osler (1849-1919)

*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.

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