Reflections from the Senior Promotion Process

Mar 6, 2018
Dr. Shahid Husain

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Søren Kierkegaard

Shahid HusainIt was the summer of 2015 when I was asked by the Ed Cole, the Physician in Chief at University Health Network to apply for the promotion to Professor with the Department of Medicine. I left the office, overcome with a wave of emotions: joy, excitement, nervousness and apprehension. How would my application be perceived? How could I best outline my contributions? What aspects would be crucial in making it a success? These were the questions I kept asking myself.

Soon after, as I attended an orientation session offered by Dr. Gillian Hawker, the Chair of the Department of Medicine, the questions that kept making rounds in my head achieved some clarity. The session outlined the process and requirements in a succinct manner and was pivotal in simplifying and explicating the expectations from applicants.

And so began my journey – armed with the lessons gained from the orientation, my first step was to meticulously update my Curriculum Vitae (CV). Despite having access to great secretarial support, I personally looked over every single line scrupulously. I scanned the document for typos and duplications, which are often an unavoidable element of digital documents. Once my CV was ready, I scheduled a meeting with my assigned mentor, Dr. Stephen Lipinski. I was fairly nervous, but optimistic. My mentor provided extraordinary support identifying the strengths of my CV and helping me position it in the best possible way for presentation to the committee for review. The guidance I received was also instrumental in writing a strong and meaningful personal statement of my research and educational objectives as well as my creative professional activities. It helped me identify the salient features and relevant achievements of my academic career, and I spent considerable time choosing and highlighting the contributions that best defined my work and my vision.

After countless hours of effort, the document was submitted to the Promotion Committee. In the hiatus between the submission and the call-back, my mind was rift with imaginations of all sorts – from the committee mocking the mistakes in my application to admiring the dedication evident from my application. News soon reached me that the documents were approved by the Department of Medicine to Decanal Committee, and shortly after I received a call from the Chair of Medicine that I had been promoted. Emotions were in frenzy once again – relief, immense joy, and a sense of pride, gratitude, and satisfaction.

However, my journey didn’t stop there. Soon after, I was asked by the Infectious Diseases Division Director Dr. Rupert Kaul to serve as a member of the Promotion Committee. What a circle life is, I thought. It wasn’t long ago that I was evaluated by the same committee that I was now asked to serve. Humbled, I knew this was an opportunity to contribute yet again, perhaps a little differently – to evaluate the accomplishments of my colleagues and help them advance their careers.

As this was my first time serving such a committee, I was assigned fewer applications. I was also provided with guidelines and reporting documents by the Department that benefitted me immensely in closely studying the documents provided by the candidates and consolidating my evaluations in a report.

The meeting day arrived and we were asked to present our findings.  I noticed a genuine sense of responsibility among the committee members, who sincerely provided the best suggestions to move forward for the candidate (for example, changing the category, enhancing the candidate statements etc.). It was a concentrated effort of the group to put their best forward to the Decanal Committee. Every application was independently evaluated by two committee members and was discussed in length and detail by the whole committee. The process was fair and balanced, and as members we felt immense pride in the accomplishments of our colleagues. It was also a learning process; I witnesses that some of the most common mistakes in the dossier included lack of attention to detail in the CV (for instance conflicting details or details not being presented in a manner that was easily comprehensible). Some candidate’s statements were also very modest of their outstanding achievements while some lacked the correlation between the excellent work done and its national or international impact.

Having been on both the sides of the fence, not only have I gained profound appreciation for the promotions process, but I can now truly understand the misconceptions and apprehensions one has when submitting data to the Senior Promotions Committee. The key lesson I wish to impart is that one must own their data, their contributions, and must also maximize their resources. Seek assistance and support from your mentors, utilize the resources available to you to the best of your ability and make sure your data reflects the magnitude of your tremendous work. This is not a time to be modest, but to trumpet your achievements. Don’t be shy to tell the stories of your success or include the impact of your work. You are all shining stars and the committee is there to help you achieve your goal.   

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