Award honors medical school's work/life flexibility plan, policies

Steven Artandi

Hannah Valantine

The School of Medicine received today the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Faculty Career Flexibility in recognition of its policies, commitment and plan to further enhance flexibility of faculty careers.

"Medical schools face unique challenges in not just finding, but keeping, highly specialized faculty," said Claire Van Ummersen, PhD, American Council on Education senior advisor and project director. "The awardees have addressed this issue head-on. They should serve as examples not just for other medical schools, but for any institution facing a crisis in retaining a highly trained workforce."

Stanford will use the award to further its Academic Biomedical Career Customization initiative, also known as ABCC, which was designed by a multidisciplinary team of leaders from across campus with help from the consulting firm Jump Associates.

"The medical school plan proposes creative solutions for faculty flexibility that could lead to crucial changes in the work culture of academic medicine," said Karen Cook, PhD, the university's vice provost for faculty development and diversity. "I am eager to see the results of the early pilots as I believe the model could ultimately be adapted for dissemination to faculty across the university."

Hannah Valantine, MD, the medical school's senior associate dean for diversity and leadership and chair of the flexibility task force, added: "Academic medicine is facing critical workforce challenges including a physician shortage, attrition of physician scientists and graduate students rejecting the academic track in favor of greater career/life fit. Stanford has many options in place for enabling career fit, but surveys indicate that some faculty members are reluctant to use them. They may fear burdening colleagues, or worry that they may be perceived as being less committed to their careers. Although flexibility is a pressing issue for institutions across all sectors, few have offered definitive plans to solve the problem. The School of Medicine recognizes that to recruit and retain the best and brightest, we need to align our organizational practices and culture to the needs of the 21st-century workforce."

Valantine said her office will use the award, which includes $250,000, to ensure that ABCC becomes an integral part of the academic work-culture at the school by collaborating effectively with department chairs and division chiefs to help faculty members incorporate flexibility options into their career plans.

Christy Sandborg, MD, vice president of medical affairs at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and co-chair of the flexibility task force, summarized the plan: "ABCC involves the creation of individualized career plans over a faculty member's entire career, with built-in options to flex up or down in research, patient care or education. The model is organized around teams of faculty members who will work in concert with their department chairs and professional career/life coaches, to create individual plans that will ensure faculty use existing and newly designed options to enhance work/life integration. The plan includes concrete benefits to support faculty at work and at home to make flexibility work."

Jennifer Raymond, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology and associate dean for career flexibility who helped to create ABCC, explained: "Our initiative is unique because we are directly addressing the challenge of creating flexibility without compromising the high standards of success for individuals and the institution. We are trying to create a flexibility culture that is compatible with the American ethos of hard work and excellence. Achieving excellence in academic medicine is not only compatible with, but requires career flexibility. However, we must test this assumption. We will evaluate the impact of ABCC on metrics of faculty success, advancement and retention, in addition to faculty satisfaction."

Dean Philip Pizzo, MD, thanked Valantine, Sandborg and their colleagues for what he called "transformational efforts," and the Sloan Foundation and ACE for their support. "My personal observation of the challenges my own two daughters face in balancing life and professional careers — along with the challenges I have come to know in our faculty and trainees — has fueled my passion to uncover effective ways to support faculty who have the added struggle of the academic triple mission," he said. "Without innovative new work models, we risk losing generations of promising young physicians and scientists from academic medicine."


Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

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