Spotlight on Faculty Career Flexibility
Our faculty are diverse and so are their career paths. Career flexibility means enabling faculty to focus on what is most meaningful to them, at work and in their personal lives.
Anesthesiology - Pain Management & Neurology & Neurological Sciences
Working part-time has given me some space to breathe. Having 2 kids in short succession changed our lives dramatically (for the better). I was running from my job to home and feeling completely exhausted and drained on both fronts. Contemplating leaving academics, I discussed the situation with my division chief, Sean Mackey, who suggested this program and has been very supportive in helping me develop a nontraditional 5 year plan.
While it has felt challenging at time to meet my patient’s needs, my colleagues and patients have been very supportive and the time I have with my children is invaluable. Finally, I have also been able to find some time for myself, to exercise, to read and to feel more centered and balanced. I feel much more satisfied with all aspects of my life. My advice to other faculty considering this, is first to at least be open to the possibility of change.
I find that in medicine, our culture does not permit inquiry into personal happiness. We have all seen patients who are overworked, overstressed, overtired and we have all given the same advice, to cut back. I think we need to stop pretending that we are any different than our patients.
Family Leave allowed me the time away from clinical duties to have dedicated time with my family following the birth of my third child without feeling that I was getting behind. By not having to split my time between home and work, I was able to focus entirely on my growing family and their daily needs. Family Leave made the transition of welcoming another child into our lives more enjoyable and less stressful, something my entire family appreciated.
The leave turned what traditionally is a challenging time for balancing the demands of both family and work into a relatively stress-free time with my family. I was able to return to work with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. I highly recommend other faculty members take full advantage of this program. The time with my family gave me a greater appreciation of the effort involved for caring full-time for my children.
And while I initially felt that I was playing catch-up when I returned to the office, the renewed sense of energy and appreciation for my job I acquired during my leave made this initial challenge worth it.
Obstetrics and Gynecology
I came to Stanford for fellowship training in 2000, and joined the faculty in 2003. I also take care of women with conditions that make them high-risk during pregnancy such as history of poor obstetric outcomes, risks in the current pregnancy and certain chronic medical conditions, and conduct research. My son was 3 months old when I started my fellowship, and I subsequently had 2 more children, with two 6-week maternity leaves.
The option to work 80% FTE, first suggested by my forward-thinking division director Dr. Maurice Druzin, has enabled me to pursue simultaneously a rich, active academic career, patient practice, and family life. My Fridays off have given me the ability to participate in my kids’ school lives, get our home lives in order, have some time for myself, and take extra time to work when deadlines have hit.
These open Fridays have given me the flexible free time that I might otherwise have at night were it not for 3 kids and a frequently travelling husband. This extra buffer time has allowed me to stay much more on top of my home and work lives, both enormous sources of satisfaction. I was promoted from assistant to associate professor in 2010, and feel that my flexible schedule has enabled, rather than hurt, my work productivity. I would encourage any faculty member considering a reduced schedule to discuss it with a mentor and her/his chair. Such an arrangement may be not only the factor that keeps you in the game, but it may allow you to flourish.
I had two babies while I was an assistant professor, and the tenure clock-extension took some of the pressure off during that critical time in my professional and family life. I have since then achieved tenure. Now that those babies are in elementary school, I use the emergency back-up care program to cover gaps in my childcare arrangements, especially during school holidays. I love that it takes just a few clicks to request care, and the caregivers sent by Bright Horizons have always been very professional and responsive. I think of Stanford's flexibility policies as tools to help me manage work and life while advancing my career.