School of Medicine Launches Cultural Transformation

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Goal of Initiative at University of Maryland School of Medicine is to change culture and promote greater diversity among senior leadership positions.

jmorrison@som.umaryland.edu (Joanne Morrison) | Mon Dec 3, 2018

School of Medicine Launches Cultural Transformation

December 3, 2018   |  

University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, announced that, as part of a new schoolwide Program in Cultural Transformation, UMSOM will launch a major restructuring of its senior leadership positions to ensure that women are represented at the school's highest levels.

The Program in Cultural Transformation was launched Nov. 30 to faculty, students, and staff during a multi-day “listening tour” conducted across the UMSOM constituents. The program will be designed to transform UMSOM's culture into a national model for a respectful, inclusive, and professional work environment.

New Executive Promotions

Reece said the following changes will be effective immediately:

  • Several women in the organization will be promoted to executive leadership positions, including to the positions of chief operating officer for UMSOM, senior associate dean for medical student education, associate dean for medical student admissions, and associate dean for faculty affairs and cultural transformation.
  • A Dean’s Advisory Committee on Cultural Transformation will be formed to assess progress on a regular basis and make specific recommendations for action.
  • A new senior-level member of the Dean’s Executive Cabinet will be given the responsibility of overseeing a slate of new and existing initiatives that represent significant changes in all aspects of professionalism and conduct in UMSOM's culture.
  • A new TransformMed email box has been created (TransformMed@som.umaryland.edu) for anyone in the UMSOM community to raise concerns, ask questions, and share ideas for the Program in Cultural Transformation, or for issues to be brought to the attention of the dean or the executive cabinet.

Currently, women represent 40 percent of the full-time faculty and 60 percent of the medical students at UMSOM. In the new management structure, women will make up 43 percent of the Dean’s Executive Cabinet and 23 percent of UMSOM senior leadership, including department chairs, members of the Dean’s Executive Cabinet, and directors of programs, centers, and institutes.

Academic medicine has been identified nationally as having a high risk for issues and occurrences related to discrimination, inequity, and harassment to occur, according to a report published recently by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

“Addressing these issues starts with assembling a diverse leadership team which can help guide us through this process of making real substantive cultural changes. These new appointees will also provide strong academic and scientific leadership of the various programs and academic units within the UMSOM,” said Reece, who also is executive vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor.

Reece has launched national leadership searches and executive leadership promotions as part of the overall cultural transformation initiative. He announced the following promotions, effective immediately:

L-to-R, Louisa Peartree, MBA; Donna Parker, MD; Nancy Lowitt, MD, EdM; Sandra Quezada, MD, MS; Mary Pooton; Elizabeth Lamos, MD; and James Kaper, PhD.

L-to-R, Louisa Peartree, MBA; Donna Parker, MD; Nancy Lowitt, MD, EdM; Sandra Quezada, MD, MS; Mary Pooton; Elizabeth Lamos, MD; and James Kaper, PhD.

Louisa Peartree, MBA, who is currently senior associate dean for finance and business affairs, is promoted to chief operating officer of UMSOM. In her new role as senior associate dean and chief operating officer, Peartree will oversee and manage, along with her team, all of the operational, financial, facilities, and business affairs for UMSOM.

Donna Parker, MD, who is currently associate dean for student affairs, is promoted to senior associate dean for medical educational programs. Parker, who received her medical degree and postgraduate training at UM, will now oversee the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Medical Education, the Office of Admissions, and the Office of Student Research for UMSOM. In her new role, she will provide leadership across all medical education initiatives, including planning and revision of the medical student curriculum. She also will continue her medical practice on a part-time basis as associate professor in medicine.

Nancy Lowitt, MD, EdM, who is currently associate dean for faculty affairs and chief conflict of interest officer for UMSOM, will assume leadership of the Program in Cultural Transformation. She will spearhead a steering committee charged with developing and implementing all aspects of the program. Lowitt already has been involved in several initiatives designed to help women develop as leaders at UMSOM. Over the past two years, she has led a series of leadership workshops for junior faculty and formed an informal working group for women faculty to discuss mentoring, work-life balance, caregiving, and individual wellness.

Sandra Quezada, MD, MS, who is currently interim associate dean for admissions, is promoted to associate dean for medical school admissions and serves as the senior admissions officer for UMSOM. Quezada will continue her part-time medical practice as an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at UMSOM.

Mary Pooton is promoted to assistant dean for development. Pooton, who has been with UMSOM’s Office of Development since 2005, will oversee and direct all of the operational and strategic initiatives for UMSOM's development office.

Elizabeth Lamos, MD, is promoted to assistant dean for student affairs. She is currently serving on the staff of UMSOM's Office of Student Affairs, providing counseling and mentoring to medical students. She also is on the faculty in the Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology.

James Kaper, PhD, is promoted to vice dean for academic affairs. As senior associate dean for academic affairs, he helped coordinate many of the existing cultural programs that helped women scientists advance in their careers. Notably, he provided academic leadership with a schoolwide team that resulted in an eight-year LCME accreditation for UMSOM.

Addressing Need for Broad Cultural Changes

According to Lowitt, the Program in Cultural Transformation will be developed as an academic program involving all the departments of UMSOM and in close collaboration with the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). As such, it will include a series of metrics-based initiatives to monitor progress and success in promoting leadership, professionalism, diversity, and a respectful and inclusive work environment.

Lowitt will name a steering committee to help guide the new program. The program will have particular emphasis on developing measurable initiatives and creating policies and expectations for professional conduct and consequences across UMSOM.

“We know that our ability to provide high-quality patient care, ensure patient safety, develop new devices and therapies, test new ideas, and teach our students and colleagues, depends on an environment and a culture defined by professionalism, respect, and collaboration, and where all have the opportunity to contribute and to succeed,” Lowitt said.

A broad “Organizational Culture Scan,” conducted this year by an outside consulting firm, examined the cultural climate of UMSOM and UMMC. Key areas of focus included accountability, fair/respectful/inclusive work environment, retaliation and retribution, appreciation/value, collaboration/teamwork, and communication. The independent evaluators found strengths and identified areas that could be improved.

As a result of this assessment, UMB, UMMC, and UMSOM have collaborated over the past year to enact a series of initiatives to focus broadly on civil behavior, including the appreciation of and respect for and acceptance of others. There will be new policies and training on how to report instances of unethical and unprofessional behaviors, including sexual harassment and assault and discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and sex. UMSOM and UMMC are working closely with UMB’s Title IX officer and a university compliance office on these initiatives.

Over the past year, under the leadership of Quezada, UMSOM implemented training in “Unconscious Bias in Everyday Life” to help students, residents, faculty, and UMSOM leadership understand how unconscious bias might be impacting day-to-day decisions. The program now continues on a regular basis. 

Supporting Women in Leadership Development and Advancement

In 2017, UMSOM implemented a leadership development workshop series that targeted faculty at the associate professor level, and another leadership development workshop series that targeted junior faculty. These workshops provided opportunities for participants to develop and practice their skills and to take steps to becoming our next generation of leaders.

A number of women faculty leaders also have been working with Lowitt to develop and implement new initiatives for faculty regarding work-life balance and resilience, mentorship for academic promotion, and the importance of individual wellness in a culture defined by caregiving.

Under the leadership of Associate Dean for Research Career Development Wendy Sanders, MA, UMSOM has begun a new Scientific Leadership & Professional Development Program for Faculty, with Special Emphasis on Women and other Minorities. This program emphasizes diversity, retention, and collaborative skills. The program includes sessions on overcoming the challenges facing women and minorities as leaders, and it provides a series of steps and strategies for leadership in a diverse scientific environment.

Collaborating on Cultural Improvements Underway at UM Medical Center

UMSOM also has been collaborating with UMMC on a number of culture initiatives. This year, a joint UMSOM/UMMC task force was formed to lead the efforts toward a culture transformation with the goal of improving communication, aligning processes, and allowing for greater employee empowerment across the two institutions.

  • The “Just Culture” Initiative is a metrics-based approach designed to balance organizational and individual accountability while maintaining a continuous learning environment. The initiative includes mandatory intensive training at all levels of the institution’s leadership with specific algorithms in place to measure effectiveness.
  • The UMMC Professionalism Enhancement Initiative was formed in 2016 to focus attention on achieving rapid follow-up of reported professionalism concerns. The initiative provides easy, confidential, and safe online reporting of any incidents of professional misconduct.

“Our goal is to unify all of these new and existing initiatives and make the implementation and measurement of these as high a strategic priority as we set for our other mission areas,” Reece said. “In doing so, we will truly change the culture across our institution. We want everyone in our environment to feel supported and confident, and to feel free to report untoward conduct without fear of reprisals. To this end, we hope to serve as a national model for others in academic medicine.”