Thoughts on faculty engagement

Guest blog by Keith Ogle, outgoing Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement

I’ve been honoured to serve as Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement for the College of Medicine since June 1, 2016. Prior to that time, for a period of about eight months, I did some organizational work for the college in the same administrative area. Now, effective June 1, 2018, I have retired from my administrative role and am heading out to explore very different landscapes.

You might think that by this time, I’d have a fairly good idea about the ins-and-outs of faculty engagement. You would be wrong! It has proven to be a fairly complex subject and for me, at least, several minor mysteries remain. Why are some faculty completely engaged? Why have others withdrawn? Why do some choose to never become more than minimally engaged? What do engaged faculty have in common? How are they different from each other? How do we measure engagement? How should we acknowledge and reward engagement? And in fact, what is engagement?

I have the impression that my most highly engaged colleagues would also struggle with these questions. For the most part, they probably don’t give it much thought. It’s not like they are following some carefully defined career plan, or that they’ve always dreamed of being medical teachers, researchers or administrators. I might be wrong about the researchers – maybe being engaged is, in fact, about following their dreams. But for most physicians, being engaged as a member of faculty is all wrapped up with both their personalities and their engagement in clinical work. An observation: actively engaged, high-performing medical faculty tend to be actively engaged, high-performing clinicians. They are recognized in both the academic and clinical worlds as consistent and valuable contributors.

Another observation: the timeline for engagement, on average, tends to be bimodal. There are obvious exceptions, but newly appointed faculty who are also embarking on new clinical careers, tend to get more involved initially than they might later on. Perhaps it is due in part to not knowing exactly what they’re getting into, but I suspect it also has something to do with energy and optimism. Later on, during the mid-career stages, academic engagement tends to drop off, probably for a number of reasons. Life gets busy with kids, mortgages, landscaping, debts to pay off, and multiple other real-life complications. Then, in late-career, there’s more time again. Memories of perceived mid-career injustices are held in balance with a sense of gratitude for one’s own education and a different understanding of one’s personal role in achieving the greater good.

A third observation: actively engaged faculty show up as being in the game for more than themselves. They tend to be outward-focused but intrinsically rewarded—they find joy in simply being involved, and they don’t over-think it. This seems most obvious, to me, with good clinical teachers, but I see it right across the academic spectrum. Again, there are obvious exceptions. We have all seen examples of self-serving engagement where recognition is the goal and self-sacrifice the persona.

My replacement will be tackling many of these questions and will be looking to faculty for the best answers. That individual will have continued support from an outstanding set of forward-looking leaders, and ongoing support from an expanding cohort of passionate and engaged faculty. As the college’s role in the community, the university and the health care system continues to evolve, our faculty will undoubtedly show us what true engagement means, and why it contributes to satisfaction and meaning in our professional lives.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on faculty engagement

  1. Dear Keith

    You will surely be missed in the College of Medicine. What great work you have done in the Department of Academic Family Medicine and also in this role. I wish you all the best in yet another attempt at retirement. (I have a feeling you will be successful this time!)

  2. Thanks Keith for your many years of faculty engagement in your practice of family medicine. Thanks for your leadership in the past two years in this particular role. You will be missed. All the best in whatever fun and adventure/service lies ahead!

  3. Hello Keith:

    Best wishes on your well deserved retirement.

    I think you succinctly described engagement – it is a very difficult construct to outline in words but easy to see through behaviours of those involved. You were a role model to many, including myself.

    Brian Clapson

  4. I agree with your comments and the challenge with engaging others in very important areas. I’ve appreciated learning from you as a student and working with you as colleagues. All the best in future endeavours!

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