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Review and Reflection

August 5, 2021

To the YSM and Alumni Communities:

Each year when I was chair of a Department of Medicine, the residency program director and I would shake our heads when we reviewed the resident survey and came to the question regarding how often residents received mid-rotation feedback. Whatever we tried, we struggled to increase the proportion of residents who answered positively. We developed courses in evaluation for core faculty. We conducted our own surveys, and there we discovered a disconnect. When surveyed, 80% of faculty said they provided feedback mid-rotation. Twenty percent of residents said they received feedback mid-rotation.

As a dean now interested in knowing that our faculty are receiving annual feedback, I feel as if I am experiencing, to quote Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again.” During Listening Meetings, a hunger for regular feedback has emerged as a common theme among faculty members. In leadership meetings, department chairs invariably report that they provide feedback to faculty in their department.

Annual reviews serve as a forcing function for both the faculty member and the section chief or chair. They require faculty members to reflect on their aspirations and develop goals, contemplate their progress, and identify and communicate obstacles. They provide the opportunity to “manage up,” share their successes and ensure that the section chief or chair is aware of their vision for the future. For the section chief or chair, the annual meeting provides the opportunity to appreciate hidden talent, detect problems early, remove barriers or provide lacking resources, recognize patterns in an area under their leadership, understand better how to sponsor each faculty member, and retain rising stars proactively.

Annual reviews are as valuable for senior faculty members as they are for younger colleagues. The review provides the same opportunity to pause for reflection, highlight programmatic successes, identify obstacles, share the vision for the section or department, provide feedback to leaders, and promote junior faculty under their supervision. To this end, the chairs and deputy deans and I meet each year. In turn, I meet with President Salovey and Provost Strobel to review the success and misses of the last year and articulate the school’s goals for the coming year.

Why don’t annual reviews happen, then? For starters, they take time. For large departments, it may not be feasible for a chair to meet with every faculty member. In many cases, it is more appropriate for section chiefs to meet with faculty, and an hour a week is not too much to ask of a leader. Faculty further may not appreciate that they can initiate the process by requesting a meeting. In fact, in the case of the residency review mentioned above, the strategy that was eventually effective in increasing the proportion of responses was empowering our residents to ask for mid-rotation feedback.

As we return to campus, I would like each of us to renew our commitment to ensuring that all faculty meet annually with their section chief or chair. For the latter, this will require a determined commitment to meeting with each faculty member and the engagement of administrative support. For faculty, it will require the initiative to ask for what you need – that is to request a meeting if you have not had one in the last year. If you do, you will likely be surprised to hear a thank you. To support this work, the Office of Academic and Professional Development will disseminate several templates to assist faculty with reflecting and preparing for the meeting and to facilitate thoughtful discussion and feedback.


Nancy J. Brown, MD
Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Medicine
C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine