Balancing Academics with Clinical as an early Faculty

Gabriella Ode, MD | Daniel Osei, MD, MSc, FAAOS

January 13, 2022


As a young academic surgeon, balancing your early clinical practice and academic responsibilities can be challenging. In addition to navigating patient care and finding a rhythm in the OR, you may be expected to publish manuscripts, teach residents and/or fellows or apply for research grants and other sources of funding. Here are some tips to help strike the balance between academics and clinical practice:

1Discuss Expectations

Discuss what your expectations are for academic performance with your department leadership. This varies from institution to institution. Understand the criteria for academic advancement (such as progressing from assistant to associate professor).

2Be a Closer

Finish your research that you started in residency and fellowship. It is important to follow through and see these projects to completion so that you can then focus your energy on new ideas and projects.

3Discuss Responsibilities and Goals

If you are expected to teach residents, set early expectations for them regarding responsibilities and also discuss their goals for the rotation. Make sure to schedule mid rotation and end of rotation feedback meetings before the rotation begins. It is just as important that you solicit feedback on how to be a more effective teacher as it is for them to grow as an adult learner in orthopaedics.

4Seek Opportunities for Teaching and Mentorship

If your job involves an academic appointment with the medical school, seek out opportunities for teaching and mentorship among medical students. Mentorship of student can be personally fulfilling. Additionally, these relationships with medical students call allow for delegation of research tasks 

5Set Short, Intermediate and Long-Term Goals

Short term goals (<1 year) can include development of a research project or completion of a manuscript or research grant. Intermediate goals (1-3 years) can include involvement in leadership positions such as local or national committees. Long terms goals align with your expectations for productivity that you have discussed with department leadership including academic promotion. Assess your progress on your short-term goals monthly; Assess your intermediate term goal progress every 6 months and assess your long-term goals every year. If your priorities change over that time, make necessary changes.

6Differentiate Between Academic Responsibilities and Clinical Duties

Draw a line in the sand between research or other academic responsibilities and your clinical duties. It can be difficult to focus on developing and executing a research study or writing a grant proposal if you are behind on clinic notes. Remember that your patients are your responsibility and providing efficient and thoughtful care should remain your number one priority. Allocate time in your day to complete your clinical responsibilities and then separately, set aside dedicated time during your work week or in the evening to make incremental progress on academic tasks.

7Learn When to Say No

Most importantly, learn when to say no. Early academic practice can seem like drinking from a fire hose. Often there is a desire to participate in multiple different leadership and academic opportunities. However, remember that there are only so many hours in the day and you need to be able to be present and engaged for your patients, your staff, and your family. You do not want to stretch yourself too thin. When offered an opportunity, ask candidly about the time commitment that is required. Assess if you can devote the necessary time and resources to this opportunity and determine if it adds value to your career or potentially siphons resources from another commitment that is more aligned with your career goals. If you find that the new opportunity fits more of the latter, be honest and politely decline. Let them know that you are unable to provide the time and commitment that it requires.


DISCLOSURES: Dr. Ode This individual reported nothing to disclose. Dr. Osei has no active consultant relationships, Committees: ASSH Council, Member at Large; ASSH Publications and Products Advisory Committee; ASSH Diversity Committee; Co-Chair ASSH Research Management Committee; Associate Editor, Journal Hand Surgery.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2022 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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