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Practical Tips for Promotion

Practical Tips for Promotion

Sponsored by the Faculty Development Committee

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Get Advice Directly from the Source

Submitted by: Isaac Chu, MD (Clinical Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology, Keck School of Medicine)

“If you're interested in a promotion try getting advice directly from the source, your chairman. Often the rapport that is built from asking for advice and acting on it will assist in building a relationship as well as objectively contributing to the department's specific need”.

Adam Grant, Professor of Organizational Psychology – Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Schwantes, Marcel. “3 Things Wharton's Adam Grant Says You Should Do to Be Truly Successful.”, Inc., 2 May 2018,


Submitted by: L. Jane Easdown MDCM, MHPE (Professor of Anesthesiology, Program Director, Vanderbilt University Medical Center)

Each step in your academic career requires a strategy for success. As we have found through SEA faculty development workshops, every institution has similar but not identical guidelines for promotion on education tracks. Some are more rigorous than others but the items they look for are likely to be the same. Each step is distinctive and here are some pointers on what they might be looking for as they peruse your CV.

Rank Teaching Leadership Scholarship
Assistant to Associate Professor. Demonstrate eagerness to accomplish – take on many challenges. Evidence- volume and quality in all settings – classroom, workshop, simulation-topic, time number, location. Roles such as Director, Medical School Advisor, CCC, Program Director. Membership on local, regional, national committees-what have you done in these organizations? This is where you get your letters of recommendation. Sharing with others- manuscripts, talks, curricula, presentations, posters, research grant applications.
Associate to Full Professor. Time to FOCUS, HIGHLIGHT and SHOWCASE. Time to assist others, faculty development, quality over quantity, maintain Teaching Portfolio with evidence of learner assessment. Recognition as national/international leader-look beyond your own institution-be more than a member of a committee-be a productive member. First or last author manuscripts, high impact journals, stay away from predatory journals, national/international speaking engagements, reviewing journals, active research with funding, mentorship of faculty and trainees.

Utilize Peer Evaluations of your Teaching Skills to Improve as well as Document your Progress and Passion in Medical Education

Submitted by: David Young MD, MEd, MBA, FASA (Professor, Baylor College of Medicine)

Peer Evaluations of Teaching Skills can be very useful in your professional development as well as academic advancement. Remember to check your own institution’s promotion policies to see if a formal peer evaluation is required or strongly suggested. Even optional peer evaluations can be very meaningful to the faculty member especially if performed by an individual trained in the process.

Most peer evaluations are designed to be a formative process in which a trained evaluator focuses on the actual delivery of an educational session; the evaluator minimizes critiquing the actual content present but targets the evaluation on the overall teaching performance.

Peer evaluations focus on the teacher’s ability within several capacities including:

  • Time management
  • Session organization
  • Learner engagement
  • Learner comfort
  • Promotion of understanding

Meaningful peer evaluations will start with an observation of a teaching activity followed by a debriefing session. This session is designed to provide honest and constructive criticism using direct observations from the session. In addition, the evaluator should provide useful alternatives or strategies to mitigate all reported concerns.

Depending on the institution’s promotion policies, receiving a Peer Evaluation of your Teaching Skills can improve your future teaching performance which can result in documented higher learner evaluation scores, perhaps increased future presentation opportunities as well as demonstrate your positive attitude in improving your teaching performance.

The SEA has an established Peer Coaching Program. Additional information on the Program can be found at:

Citations In COVID-19

Submitted by: Tracey Straker, MD, MS, MPH, CBA, FASA (Professor Anesthesiology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center)

Many of us were accepted to speak at conferences this year. Many of us will not speak at these conferences because COVID-19 has resulted in the cancellation of many in-person meetings. How do we cite “lost” presentations on our CV? According to the American Psychological Association, (APA) citing your accepted manuscripts and presentations in your CV for meetings that were canceled or made virtual is totally acceptable– and here’s how to do it.

  • If the conference is cancelled, list the citation on your CV in the usual manner for the work, and put “(Conference Canceled)” at the end of the citation.
  • If the conference is changed to online only, list the citation as if it were an in-person conference– there is no difference in citations for virtual and in-person conferences.
  • If the conference occurs in-person or virtually, and you cannot attend or your session was canceled, and you were the sole author– list the citation, and in brackets at the end of the citation, state your session was canceled. This indicates that the meeting occurred, but your session was canceled.



Submitted by: Tracey Straker, MD, MS, MPH, CBA, FASA (Professor Anesthesiology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center)

There is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment when you get that acceptance letter from a journal for a manuscript that you have labored over for months. Do not waste your hard work by publishing your manuscript in a predatory journal.

What is a predatory journal?
A journal of poor quality, that usually charges a publishing fee, without an adequate peer review process or editing services, whether open access or not.

How do I know a journal is credible?

  • Where is the journal indexed? Is it included in major databases such as PubMed, PubMed Central, Cochrane, DOAJ, Scopus, Medline, Web of Science, amongst others
  • How long has the journal been in business?
  • Is it peer reviewed?
  • What is its impact factor?
  • Does the journal tout a quick turnaround time for publication?
  • Research the editorial board.
  • Read past issues of the journal – look for spelling and grammatical errors.

Is there a list of predatory journals?

For a list from 2017 and earlier you can look at Beall’s list at

After 2017 until the present are Cabell’s blacklist (subscription only) or are two of the sites available

Do not just work hard, work smart too!


Mentoring Tips

Submitted by: Michael C. Lewis MD, FASA, Joseph L. Ponka Chair (Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Management, & Perioperative Medicine, Henry Ford Health System, Professor of Anesthesiology, Wayne State University)

One consistent piece of advice that you will receive as you start your journey on the academic promotion ladder is find a mentor. So, after searching for a while you've discovered the suitable mentor. Now what?

  • Aims are imperative: If you jointly define detailed, reachable goals at the start of your affiliation, with a timeline, your mentor can help you stay on track at each meeting.
  • Regular Consistent Meetings: Define at the outset how frequently, for how long, and how you want to meet.
  • Set an agenda: Have an agenda ready before each meeting.
  • Allow for feedback: It could be positive, but also negative. Be open to hearing tough feedback.
  • Take notes as you're meeting so that you can follow up via email. That will help a busy mentor stay on track and know what to focus on with you over the course of your relationship.
  • Decide on an end date. Based on how long those short-term goals will take to achieve, decide how long you want the mentorship relationship to last. A good rule of thumb is usually four to six months, with the option to keep meeting informally.
  • This relationship is not a therapy session. Remember to make and keep boundaries. We are human, and often personal issues will come into play during your sessions, especially if you have a pre-existing relationship or are talking about work-life balance. It's okay to vent. But make sure not to monopolize the session with personal issues or make it only about venting.
  • Finally, consider establishing a board of mentors. No one mentor can help you achieve all of your goals. Maybe one mentor can help you consider a path to leadership because they are a supervisor. Maybe another can help with technical skills specific to making a job change. Another mentor may be aware of your skill set and could turn into a sponsor down the line. There is no right or wrong number of mentors as you progress through your professional career. Even if a formal mentorship period ends, keep these mentors in your life and updated of your achievements and pitfalls. They can be a guide when you're unsure and will feel appreciated that they helped you get to the place you're at in your career. Win-win!
  • Some mentorships will end, based on where each person is at in life. Don't feel guilty, but close the loop respectfully. And remember to take care of yourself, above all else. Good luck!


Submitted by: Tracey Straker, MD, MS, MPH, CBA, FASA (Professor Anesthesiology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center)

As your career advances, and you begin to think about promotion, start to develop an area of expertise that will be the cornerstone of who you are academically. What will you be known for in the field of Anesthesiology. Your teaching portfolio should support your “cornerstone’ – A FOCUS.

  • F-Find your educational or clinical passion and develop it. If you love what you do, it becomes easier to accomplish it.
  • O-Organize your scholarly activities so that they highlight and complement your chosen passion.
  • C-Channel your energies into working smart – have a vetted plan – ask for guidance for those who have done this before.
  • U-Understand that academic promotion is a process – it takes time, dedication and a strategic plan of action.
  • S-Simplify your academic promotions process by starting a teaching portfolio at the beginning of your academic career- it is NEVER too early to start.

Create a Personal Statement

Submitted by: Sadiq Shaik, MD (Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida College of Medicine)

Applications for promotion involves creating a packet of documents outlining your contributions to the institution. It can sometimes be overwhelming and confusing for the promotions committee to sift through the documents and decide.

A personal statement will help highlight your achievements and contributions that meet the criteria for the promotion.

Example items may include:

  • Research including Principal Investigator projects, collaborative work with various departments, grants and mentoring other projects.
  • Teaching activities including curriculum development, preceptor-ships, regional/national committee work and educational grants.
  • Presentations at national meetings and original findings that have led to changes in medical practice across the nation in the specialty area.
  • Scholarship as evident by publication of manuscripts, peer reviewer of manuscripts, editorial work, book chapters, and book reviews.
  • Clinical service experience including the number of years with examples of contributions to various departments, boards and institutions. Examples can include development of programs, policies and procedures that contributed to the scope and quality of practice.

In summary, the key elements to include:

  • What do you do?
  • How have you advanced academics?
  • How will you contribute to the mission of the college of medicine?

The Mini CEX

Submitted by: Scott D. Markowitz, MD (Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus)

  • Simple and straightforward teaching and feedback tool employed for learners that can be meaningful and lasting contribution to your teaching portfolio.
Consider a “piece” of education, a procedure or a technique for trainees to master, and create a set of expectations and a scoring system around those expectations. The evaluation is a few key questions, which can be put on, for example, an index card (or a short email/online survey).

For example:
  1. PIV placement technique:
  2. Equipment ready
  3. Gloves on
  4. Tourniquet applied
  5. Area prepped
  6. Maintained sterile or no-touch technique from needle insertion through dressing application
  7. Confirmed flow and flush while checking for signs of abnormal placement

Each question could have a y/n/don’t know or a scale from excellent to unacceptable. After observing and completing the card, it could be used for feedback or collected for QI purposes.

  • The mini CEX form would be submitted as a piece of scholarship (teaching or QI tool) that could be peer-reviewed by the clinical operations or education committee of your department, and could produce scholarship in the form of QI or research study component.

Sponsorship and Mentorship – Know the Difference

Submitted by: Tracey Straker, MD, MS, MPH, CBA, FASA (Professor of Anesthesiology)

As you move along your trajectory of promotion, undoubtedly you will meet individuals that help you. Most are familiar with mentors, but are you familiar with sponsors, and do you know the difference?

  • A Sponsor is an individual that sits in a position of power, who publicly advocates for you. They make the phone call, hire you, or make the position for you to be hired into .They recognize you as a “high potential.”
  • A Mentor is an individual that advises you on your path. They write the letters of recommendation and wait for opportunities to arise. They recognize your ability to succeed.

Check out the table below for a snapshot of the differences. Both sponsors and mentors are valuable to your career, but knowing the difference may make your pathway a bit smoother.
Sponsor Mentor Supporter
Hires you for a position Writes a LOR for a position Is happy when you receive the position
Is in a position of power to actively mention your name for a new role Writes a LOR for a new role Is happy when you receive the new role
Actively seeks out/ makes opportunities where you can advance Waits for opportunities to arise to write a LOR Is happy that you are advancing
Makes a phone call/ has a 1:1 with a decision maker who has the authority to say yes Writes a LOR and encourages you Prays for you
Tells you what you need to get the job specifically Will suggest leadership courses and coach you Encourages you to go after the position

Food for Thought – An out of the box strategy

Submitted by: Isaac Chu, MD (Assistant Professor of Clinical Anesthesiology, Keck School of Medicine)

In the business setting, it is common knowledge that increases in salaries and status are often associated with changing companies. This factor suggests that for an employee seeking a promotion, you may want to seriously consider outside opportunities as a way to ascend the academic ladder. Anecdotally, academic faculty have reported changes in title and/or salary as incentives offered to move to a new academic setting.

Keng, Cameron. “Employees Who Stay In Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Jan. 2018,

Steps for Self-Preservation through the Promotions Process

Submitted by: Ingrid Fitz-James, MD (Assistant Professor, Montefiore Medical Center)

  • Promoting Self
  • Sustaining Self
  • Enhancing Self
  • Sustain Departmental and Others' Professional Interest in Your Subject of Choice by declaring Your Interest while remaining of service to others.
  • Remain informed about "new knowledge" regarding your Subject of Choice.
  1. "Carve Out a Place for Yourself" - Identify a subject of interest to you and to others, to which they may not want to dedicate the effort or time to become fully informed.
  2. "Aspire to New Plateaus" - Carve out regular time allotment to this pursuit, to arrive at conclusions and observations that "Stand the Test of Time."
  3. Make the pursuit of your subject in parts and elements that can be woven in one single subject, "Don't get Boxed In," and weave together the multiple facets which you have pursued over time. "Reach Deep" across Multiple Disciplines to be informed about the Application of "new knowledge" to your Subject of Choice. "Listen to the Voice of the Wind." Explore the conclusions reached by other disciplines about the subject.
  4. Do not be like everyone else, develop your own style. "It's OK to be a Little of the Wall" but do not be “Off the Wall." Remain factual in content and accurately referenced with respect to your sources.
  5. Dedicate care to a few presentations in terms of depth so that evolution into a National Presentation is an attainable goal.

The italicized quotations, referenced with deference, originated from a circular of the Sierra Club, a steward of environmental protection, under the heading ”Advice from a CANYON;”

Maintain a teaching portfolio in conjunction with your CV

Submitted by: Bryan Mahoney, MD (Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and West Hospitals)

For a physician educator, a teaching portfolio allows you to place your educational accomplishments in the best possible light.

Essential components of your teaching portfolio should include:

  • A statement of your Educational Philosophy
  • Clinician Educator portfolio:
    • Educational Curricula Designed, Implemented, and Instructed (includes the program, audience, teaching site, duration, frequency, your role, and the overall planning time)
    • Teaching Activity Report (a list of lectures, small groups, grand rounds, clinical teaching within your home institution and evaluations of these sessions)
    • Educational Administration & Leadership (roles within your institution and program)
    • National & International Scholarship in Education (a brief statement of your areas of educational expertise followed by invited lectures and presentations or talks at national and international conferences)
    • Educational Materials with National & International Impact (materials you have created and shared organized in an appendix)
    • Advising & Mentoring (a list of mentees with testimonials from mentees or evaluations of your teaching or mentoring)
    • Honors & Awards in Education

If you have served in a significant education role (Program Director, Vice-Chair of Education), create an additional section cataloguing the accomplishments you achieved within that role.

Of course, if your institution already has a form for an Educational Portfolio, you will need to incorporate these elements to conform to the available template.

Letters for promotion: think ahead, you will need them!

Submitted by: Jane Easdown, MDCM, MHPE (Professor of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University)

Look over your university policies for promotion to be sure you are in compliance with their instructions on this.

  • These letters might be internal or external to your healthcare system
  • These are individuals who know your work and can vouch for its quality and impact
  • Most of us give letter writers that we know personally a “heads up” in advance to determine that they are prepared and also that they will indeed support you

Internal Letters:

  • For clinical tracks, you will be asked to recommend colleagues from within your own healthcare system.
  • Some of these might be from colleagues in your own department. They might be surgical or medical colleagues if they know your work and can report on your contribution and impact
  • If you work with a nursing manager, administrator or QI committee then this might be an important person to add to the list
  • You might be asked to provide letters from mentees, former residents or fellows

External Letters:

  • Start thinking early in your career about what external organizations you might join and become active in
  • The work that you do for SEA, SPA, SOAP, etc. will be not only be enjoyable and instructive to your career, but will also allow you to make the contacts necessary to get those important outside letters.
  • Individuals that can write letters are committee chairs, board members, etc. They should know you because of your activity in meetings, on committees, article for newsletters, etc. Institutions often request that the letter writer not be a close collaborator. That might be a person you write articles with on a regular basis. Generally if you have done some work together, for example, a workshop one time, this is not a problem.


  • When you have received your long awaited and deserved promotion (can take up to a year!) please remember to let your letter writers know since they will not be informed by the promotion committee. They will really want to know and celebrate your success!

All publications are not equal! Know the hierarchy of the publications in your institution!

Submitted by: Tracey Straker, MD, MS, MPH, CBA, FASA (Professor of Anesthesiology)

  • Do manuscripts have to be Pub Med cited?
  • Is a manuscript weighted the same as book chapter? Or a case report?
  • Does placement of my name on a publication matter?
  • Are web based open access journals weighted the same as traditional journals?
  • Should everything I publish be peer reviewed?

These are all questions that you should know the answers to when “writing for promotion.”

Remember work hard, but work smart!

Determine Your True Reason(s) for Wanting Promotion

Submitted by: David Young MD, MEd, MBA, FASA (Full Professor)

Ascertain your real purpose for wanting promotion. Once these reason(s) are determined, you can then make an educated decision on the time and effort required in order to complete this comprehensive process. Surprisingly, not all people inspiring academic promotion mostly want this only for the self-fulfilling aspects.

If one were to deeply consider their motives for wanting promotion, they may realize that the most important part of receiving promotion is NOT the actual promotion but the following:

  • Financial benefits (i.e. pay raise)
  • Institutional benefits (i.e. college reimbursement for associate professor and higher)
  • Tenure (i.e. limited protection against termination)
  • Leadership positions (i.e. Chief or Chair positions only given to advanced ranks)
  • Future interests (i.e. more marketable if higher rank)

Many of these alternative reasons can also be obtained by other methods. In addition, many of these reasons are institutional dependent.

Reverse Mentoring

Submitted by: Tracey Straker, MD, MS, MPH, CBA, FASA (Professor of Anesthesiology)

  • Consider a “reverse mentoring“ situation.
  • Reverse mentoring is a mentoring relationship based on reciprocity between a senior faculty and a junior faculty.
  • The senior faculty may mentor you in navigating the promotional process, and you can reciprocate by mentoring the senior faculty in areas that may be deficient such as social media and technology.

Basic Facts

Submitted by: Michael C. Lewis, MD, FASA (Professor and Chairman, Henry Ford Anesthesia Department)

  • Learn the Language: read and reread the rules for promotion at your home institution. Make a check list and timeline based on these rules.
  • Create a Narrative: If you are applying for promotion from Associate to Professor you should be able to tell the story of your career. If your institution allows it, create a portfolio documenting your achievements. It should be accompanied by an Executive Summary.
  • Make Sure that Folks on the Promotion Committee Know Who You Are. This simple exercise can be very helpful. When individuals have an ‘emotional’ attachment to a name (hopefully good) they may argue your case much more effectively.
  • Be Nice to Administrators: They mediate all information flow in a University. Including everything concerned with advancement. They need your respect.
  • Have a list of Potential References from outside institutions that you can provide to your chair.

Utilize the Business Field

Submitted by: Isaac Chu, MD (Assistant Clinical Professor, Keck School of Medicine)

  • Promotional opportunities and administrative responsibilities are an important part of any academic department.
  • Few of us are well educated in the field of business, which has a tremendous amount of resources devoted to these topics.
  • Adam Grant, a renowned professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, writes on topics involving collaboration, networking, and organization- all useful topics in the journey for academic promotion.

Keep Records

Submitted by: Regina Fragneto, MD (Professor of Anesthesiology, University of Kentucky College of Medicine)

Keep a record of every presentation, resident lecture and other academic activity as you actually do it. Trying to remember all your educational activities as you are putting together your teaching portfolio for promotion is painful!


Submitted by: Shamanatha Reddy, MD (Assistant Professor, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY)

There will be many of your colleagues working towards promotion also. Work together with them. It is not a race against each other. It is a team work. Work together on publications, put together a panel for a meeting, collaborate on a joint Grand rounds with another service. Collaboration may make the journey shorter and less painful. This process is like candle light. Use your candle to light someone else’s candle it doesn’t in any way make yours darker. It will brighten the environment.

Make academic connections outside your department but within your institution.

Submitted by: Gary E. Loyd MD, MMM (Director Perioperative Surgical Home, Henry Ford Health System, Clinical Professor, Wayne State University)

Make academic connections outside your department but within your institution. People have to know who you are.

Get a Copy of the Promotion and Tenure Policy Manual of Your Institution

Submitted by: Michael Lewis MD (Professor and Chairman, Henry Ford Anesthesia Department)

  • Know when you become eligible for the application for promotion/tenure and what the criteria are.
  • Understand the promotion process. Take the time to read and understand the faculty handbook's description of the criteria for academic promotion. Somewhere in the bowels of your institutions published documents there will be a dull and lengthy document setting how the process, criteria and timelines for academic promotion.
  • Create a checklist based on the described criteria. Demonstrate leadership and achievement in a range of fields such as teaching, research, and university governance.
  • Secure support both internal and external support for your application. Letters will be sought to support your application.
  • Chat with those who have been through the process. You can garner invaluable tips.

Work on Building and/or Maintaining a Relationship With your Chair Throughout Your Career, Especially at the Beginning.

Submitted by: Issac Chu MD (Assistant Clinical Professor)

Often when academic anesthesiologists start their careers, they are simply trying to learn how to manage their clinical and academic work while staying under the radar. This usually means that they only speak to the Chair when they have a request, or worse, need to be reprimanded. This relationship makes it extremely difficult for a Chair to support that faculty member, since there is no basis for a positive relationship. It is difficult to succeed in a department without knowing the Chair's expectations. I recommend scheduling meetings with the Chair and/or discuss casually new project ideas so that the Chair may give the faculty member input and build a collaborative relationship.

Join a Hospital Committee

Submitted by: Michal Gajewski DO (Assistant Professor)

This allows you to get involved in hospital policy making and it introduces you to other likeminded individuals. The added benefit is that you will meet faculty outside of your own department which could give you a different perspective on several issues. This then allows you to bring some of those views back to your department to implement change. Most importantly it lets your Chair know that you want to play a more prominent role and that you are motivated.

Learn the Process for YOUR Institution

Submitted by: David Young MD, MEd, MBA, FASA (Full Professor)

Every institution has a specific process and policy for academic advancement and may greatly differ among institutions.

Early in your promotion process, identify the relevant details for YOUR institution to help plan your career trajectory effectively.

The relevant promotion details will likely address topics such as:

  • Recommended timeline
  • Curriculum vitae format
  • Publication requirements [if any]
  • Reference letter requirements
  • Items valued in the promotion criteria [as well as items not highly valued]
  • Process for promotion
  • Requirement for departmental internal promotions committee approval [if any]
  • Service requirements to the institution [if any]

External Letters – How to Get Them!

Submitted by: Tracey Straker, MD, MS, MPH, FASA (Full Professor)

You most probably will have to get letters of recommendation from faculty outside your institution. These letters should be written by someone who is familiar with your work. This can be a daunting task for junior faculty –it certainly was for me! Approach it strategically and start early!

  • Your local state anesthesia society can be a gold mine – give a lecture for one of the meetings.
  • Join the society of a subspecialty or a niche in anesthesia that you are interested in. Often times these societies are significantly smaller and more intimate than the larger societies. It may be easier to become involved and get to know people.
  • If you have colleagues at other institutions, try to give Grand Rounds at these outside institutions.
  • Get to know one or two medical students well – mentor them in producing a poster or an abstract.
  • Try to collaborate on a project with a colleague in another institution or another service. An example of this is writing a book chapter with colleague in another institution – it does not have to be an anesthesia colleague – it could be a surgeon.

Think creatively!

The SEA is proud to be a member-driven organization, dedicated to the teaching and development of future anesthesiologists, and to the advancement of those who educate them.

Contact Info:

Society for Education in Anesthesia
6737 W. Washington St, Suite 4210 • Milwaukee, WI 53214 • (414) 389-8614