Chair's Column: DoM Faculty Survey - Helping us to serve you better

Mar 7, 2019
Drs. Karen Burns, Reena Pattani and Gillian Hawker

2018 Associate ProfessorsIn the upcoming weeks, you will be receiving a link to complete the 2019 Department of Medicine Faculty Survey.

It will only take about 15-20 minutes to complete. We promise!

The Faculty Survey has been designed by departmental members under the auspices of the Mentorship, Equity and Diversity (MED) Committee to see if we are meeting your needs and enabling you to find meaning and joy in your work. These surveys are conducted every other year to provide a ‘snap-shot’ of our faculty academic culture. The information obtained is vital in providing departmental leadership with feedback on how we are doing and guidance on where to direct efforts towards change.

We hope you will lend your voice again!

Below we’ve outlined many of the ways that the Faculty Survey has helped us make important changes in the department, but first, let us tell you about some of the changes we’ve made to the survey itself: 

This year we have made two important changes to the survey. First, the new format enabled us to reduce survey length. Second, we adopted a modular format. This format will enable us to evaluate selected aspects of your experience longitudinally while introducing ‘new’ modules to explore other aspects during subsequent administrations. This year’s modules will focus on:

  • Work-life integration and wellness
  • Civility and professionalism
  • Work structure
  • Communications, and
  • Quality improvement

We hope you will participate. Participation in the faculty survey is voluntary, and you will be able to answer none, some, or all of the questions. Even taking the time to answer some of them will help us understand your goals and needs as faculty. The information collected will be stored securely, held in strict confidence, and will not be linked to other data sources that would permit participant identification. To ensure confidentiality and anonymity, survey results will only be reported in aggregate. We hope to share the survey results with DoM members within approximately six months of survey closure.

Your responses from prior iterations of the survey have resulted in a number of strategic initiatives, policy decisions and shifts in departmental practice.

Here are some examples of how your responses have shaped our work:

1. Systematic differences in your experiences by sex/gender, religion, race and ethnicity led to our establishment of a new departmental leadership position, the Vice Chair for Mentorship, Equity and Diversity (MED). Vice Chair Sharon Straus and the MED committee have been instrumental in gathering the data and implementing changes to departmental policies and procedures that are aimed to address these differences. Among the many accomplishments of the MED portfolio are the following:

  • Establishment of the annual Summit for Women in Academic Medicine
  • Recruitment of mentorship facilitators within each division to help faculty identify appropriate mentors, and
  • Formalized processes for recruitment, hiring, and promotion across our department.

We’ve been tracking the results of these initiatives and modifying our approaches as needed based on the feedback. Based on the data, below, these strategies appear to be working.

  2014 2018
% female faculty 36% 39%↑
% female leaders 25% 50%↑
% visible minority leaders 11% 36%↑
% female by job description    
Clinician Teacher 50% 44%↓
Clinician Investigator 40% 39%
Clinician Scientist 29% 34%↑

2. Although reported career satisfaction is high overall (>84%), CQI and CI faculty members were significantly more likely than respondents in other position descriptions to report dissatisfaction with institutional support & time available for scholarly work. Our CQI faculty were also more likely to report feeling they had to work harder than their peers to be seen as scholarly. These findings have led our Vice-Chairs of Quality and Innovation and Research to dig deeper to understand and address the root of the problem. A CQI faculty survey has been conducted, a retreat is upcoming and plans are underway to better integrate CQI faculty with their hospitals with respect to the focus of their scholarly work.

For our CI faculty, the issues were different. Survey responses indicated that this group felt ‘orphaned’ from their hospital research institute and less valued and supported in their research than their CS peers. Following up on these findings, Vice Chair Research Mike Farkouh has initiated formal discussion with the hospital VPs Research to advocate for this group, which has heavier clinical loads and less access in many cases to research infrastructure. Work is underway to address these gaps.

3. From the survey results, we learned that there was a perception that teaching responsibilities were unfairly or inequitably distributed across faculty – that some faculty did little formal teaching while others with the same position description did enormous amounts, and this impacted income, protected time for scholarly activities, and career advancement. As a result, we have incorporated both the quality and quantity/type of teaching into a new checklist for the annual faculty review. Departmental division directors have also been tasked with assessing and addressing, where found, inequities in the distribution of teaching responsibilities across faculty within and across sites.

4. Over two thirds of our faculty reported having witnessed unprofessional behavior by their colleagues and one third have experienced it personally. To improve the work environment, we have incorporated the expectation of professionalism into annual review, continuing faculty appointment review (CFAR), selection for awards and senior promotion processes.

5. Finally, about 50% of you told us that you were struggling with work-life integration due to clinical demands, lack of resiliency in the system to buffer against stressful events, and concerns about raising personal or family considerations when scheduling work obligations. These stresses are contributing to a lack of wellness among our faculty. These issues have been brought to the attention of the hospital leadership and efforts are being made to address them (e.g. through recruitment of hospitalists and implementation of alternate care models). Both the Faculty of Medicine and TAHSN (Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network) leadership have made wellness a priority, and the DoM is continuing to make advances in this area. 

These changes have been driven by you and your feedback.

Thank you in advance for participating in the 2019 DoM Faculty Survey and helping us to serve you better! We look forward to hearing from you.