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Junior Faculty Development Program serves record class

The 2018 class of Penn State College of Medicine’s Junior Faculty Development Program was the largest ever, with 27 participants graduating May 31. Sponsored by the Office of Faculty and Professional Development, the program guides junior faculty members to help them become the next generation of academic leaders.

Each participant completes an individual project under the guidance of a senior faculty mentor and participates in a curriculum that runs from September to May each year.

The Junior Faculty Development Program has grown and evolved since its introduction in 2003. One of its strengths — and challenges — is its diversity, according to Dr. Daniel Wolpaw, who co-directs the program with Sarah Bronson, PhD. Dr. Barbara Ostrov rounds out the leadership team.

“This program is a powerful force in breaking down silos and building a culture of learning and professional development,” Wolpaw said. “It helps create a community of collaboration and friendship that extends beyond the program and the curriculum.”

Bronson and Wolpaw are quick to acknowledge that many faculty and staff members contribute to the program's success.

“We've made a conscious effort to reach out to faculty members with different interests and expertise,” Bronson said. “They lead sessions, act as facilitators and give us feedback on the curriculum. And that's something that gets richer every year.”

For participant Dr. Nicholas Duca, an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, fostering communication was one of the most important benefits. Duca designed and executed a needs assessment to identify barriers and opportunities in teaching clinical reasoning. He worked closely with his assigned mentor, Nancy Adams, EdD, an associate librarian in the Harrell Health Sciences Library.

“Nancy and I have similar interests in clinical reasoning, and she has access to so many resources and is so knowledgeable about those resources — about the software used in data analysis and so forth,” Duca said. “And she's familiar with a lot of the different educational things that are happening here at Penn State.”

Participant Dr. Anita Ankola, an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology, would recommend the Junior Faculty Development Program to all new faculty members.

“It's just a fantastic curriculum and presents an excellent pathway of how to be successful at an academic medical center,” she said.

Ankola's project implemented a new radiology report coding system to identify renal findings on medical imaging. The system helps clinicians recommend appropriate follow-up for findings that could potentially represent kidney cancer.

Her mentor, Dr. Catherine Abendroth, a professor in the Department of Pathology, was instrumental in the project's implementation.

“Kit helped me focus and organize my project with manageable goals and shared practical advice on how to gain buy-in from a group in order to adopt a new workflow,” Ankola said.

Applications for the 2019-2020 program will open in January 2019. See details here.

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