Tenure, Promotions and the First Ten Years:
It is essential for you to be very familiar with the milestones you need to reach as your career evolves and as you progress through the ranks at your institution. You should have a very clear understanding of how the tenure process and/or the promotion process operates at your institution. It is too late to find out as you go up for tenure/promotion that you should have done this or that. The current realities of the first 5 to 7 years, depending on your institutional requirements, is to establish your clinician scientist program. Competing pressures exist between your research interests and your clinical responsibilities. Protected time devoted to your own research enterprise is critical. Seventy-five to eighty percent of your time is needed to become a successful independent well funded, productive biomedical investigator. Physician scientists have many activities to tend to, however not all are done by everyone, especially at the beginning of your career. The highest priority must be given to your research activities.
While each institution has its own requirements, there are several general principles to consider. As you approach tenure/promotion, you should have done some teaching and attracted high-quality graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Teaching dossiers require student evaluations so make sure to collect these after each course you teach. You should have been awarded peer reviewed funding as a Principal Investigator from at least two funding sources and had renewals. Most scientists consider investigator initiated operating grants as the cornerstone of a successful research program, and an essential driver for new discoveries. Being a co-applicant of a multi-investigator program is indeed useful, but you must be very clear and transparent in showing how you yourself are making a major contribution to the program. Your research program should have progressed to a stage that high impact publications have been and are being accepted for publication. Quality should be placed well ahead of quantity. You should be establishing your name for a body of innovative high impact work which attracts attention from your colleagues. Publications should appear in the highest impact subspecialty and general biomedical journals. This interest should lead to invited lectures at national and international scientific meetings and at universities and institutes. Invited reviews in well recognized journals also indicate recognition in a field.
You may now be involved with research review as an external reviewer of manuscripts and/or grant proposals. You may, although this is much less likely, be asked to serve on a grant review panel. These review activities are time consuming so you must budget your time very carefully. Not obtaining your own grant funding because you are too busy reviewing others is not a useful way to advance your career. Some amount of administrative activity is useful since everyone must pitch in to help administer the system they work in. But once again budget your time very carefully. If you are doing your share of administrative work in your department as a junior faculty member, do not hesitate to decline a request to serve on yet another committee but indicate that once your time commitments change you are willing to take on new responsibilities. In the early years, focus your administrative roles both at your institution and externally to activities close to your research activity, e.g. graduate committees, scientific meeting program committees.
You are not working in a vacuum, so know the investigators in your field. Attend meetings, especially small meetings where it is much easier to meet your colleagues and discuss science. Social settings during a meeting are a very good venue to interact with colleagues. Promote your own trainee’s ability to attend scientific meetings with you. It is a very good investment of your funds.
It is very useful to apply for and receive personnel awards. It is confirmation of the high regard your peers have for you and your work. Applications are usually a time consuming process so focus applications on those awards which you have a very good chance of receiving. Seek much information about the application process so you understand how best to fill out the forms and what the agency is looking for in its awardees.
The Many Interests of the
Biomedical Physician Scientist:
• Basic Research
• Residency Training
• Community Biomedical Consultant
• Academic Administration
• Continuing Medical Education
• Research Training
• Clinical Research
• Laboratory Management
• Clinical Care Consultant
• Medical Student Teaching
• Translational Research