Forum to highlight faculty flexibility benefits

Recent grant to expand options

Thirteen years ago, Bess and Loren Marshall, both MDs, were taking care of their three young children and Loren’s father, who had moved into their home because of a debilitating heart attack.

With so many family responsibilities, Beth Marshall, associate professor of pediatrics, thought she was going to have to quit work to manage it all. Instead, Alan Schwartz, MD, PhD, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head of the Department of Pediatrics, suggested Marshall use the faculty career flexibility benefit of going part-time.

“This option made it possible for me to keep working,” she said.

There are a number of faculty career flexibility benefits at Washington University School of Medicine, including working part-time, pausing during the tenure probationary period and phasing retirement.

To highlight career flexibility benefits, the Office of Faculty Affairs is hosting faculty forums on family resources, work-life fit and career paths from noon-1 p.m. May 6-8 in Schwarz Auditorium, which is on the first floor of the Maternity Building.

The program is free of charge to School of Medicine faculty and includes lunch. The forums will include panels of faculty who have participated in the benefits/programs, as well as staff from the Office of Human Resources. To register for a forum, follow this link.

Another faculty member, Sheila Stewart, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology, chose the tenure probationary pause benefit to allow her to have an extra year to prepare her tenure package. “As a new mom, I didn’t know if I would need it, but I wanted to have the option,” Stewart said. “I didn’t need it as it turned out, but it was important to me that this benefit was available.”

Last fall, the School of Medicine was one of five schools nationally to receive a $250,000 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Faculty Career Flexibility. The grant aims to further improve career flexibility for academic physicians and scientists and develop future programs.

Diana Gray, MD, associate dean for faculty affairs and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and radiology, said she’s grateful that the medical school received support from the Sloan Foundation to increase faculty awareness of current policies and resources in addition to developing new tools for improved work-life balance.

“Medical school faculty have unique work-life challenges and need more flexibility to juggle the demands of their careers and personal lives,” Gray said. “We hope that the expanded support we provide will give our faculty greater satisfaction in their careers.”

As part of the grant, the medical school is developing a program in which peer mentors provide guidance and support to faculty who are starting families early in their careers. The funding also will establish a team to train peer mentors and faculty leaders to encourage career flexibility.

The medical school also is considering changes such as shared non-tenure faculty positions and part-time status on the tenure track.