It is difficult to believe that 2017 is nearly over. Yet when I look back at how the year began, and everything we have accomplished together in the intervening months, it is impressive that we did all this in just one year. A reflection on our achievements is worthwhile, and I will go into more detail of the past year in our department at next week’s State of the Department Address. Held during our regularly scheduled Internal Medicine Grand Rounds, this presentation is open to all who want to attend. We have much to celebrate and hope you will join us at noon on Thursday, 12/7, in the Medical Alumni Auditorium (E331 GH).
My presentation next week will recap many of our notable achievements for the year to frame a vision for the path ahead, but I have chosen to use this space to highlight those individuals who, without fanfare, represent the foundation of what makes this department great. I would like to introduce you to Dr. Stephen McGowan, Professor of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine. Dr. McGowan balances the dual missions of being a physician-scientist, placing his energy equally into his research and into every clinical encounter. He approaches his study of the lung’s molecular architecture or difficult diagnostic problems with the same rigor and comprehensive knowledge, acumen, and insight. Whether in a lab or as the supervising attending in his VA clinic, his colleagues, his trainees, and his patients benefit from his extraordinary attention to detail.
What most are unaware of—and this is a testament to Dr. McGowan’s depthless humility—is his commitment to social justice and compassion for the overlooked. Nearly 15 years ago, he took a sabbatical to pursue a master’s degree in missions and intercultural studies from Wheaton College, where he received an award for the highest academic achievement at graduation. He has since parlayed that education and exposure into a variety of missions, both overseas and at a nearby correctional facility, as part of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI). The IFI provides participants life-skills education, both while they are serving their sentences as well as after release. Dr. McGowan drove to Newton, Iowa, weekly to work with the inmates there. His Division Director Dr. Joe Zabner said, “He represents the characteristics found among the best of humankind.” Dr. McGowan’s family—and this department—is fortunate for his presence.
Another member of our department who does tremendous work for us behind the scenes is Dr. Pete Snyder, Vice Chair for Faculty Advancement. Depending on your perspective, the promotions and tenure process lies somewhere on the spectrum of agony and ecstasy, and for many faculty, understanding the rules, process, and expectations that lead to a successful outcome are not always intuitive. Applying clear criteria and procedures by which our colleagues are deemed eligible for promotion and reappointment is vital to ensure fairness and predictability and to prevent even the appearance of favoritism or impropriety. A rigorous academic institution lives or dies by its objectivity. Dr. Snyder’s ability to develop and advise faculty members, Division Directors, and departmental leadership on how to apply fair and consistent guidelines in the promotions and tenure process sustains this department. Although Pete has a well of experience in maintaining our meritocracy, he is open to revisions to our procedures and to identifying areas in which faculty reviews can be improved. He has developed the five-year, post-tenure reviews and oversaw recent changes to the annual review process. By designing and implementing a digital tool for the reviews, he has increased their efficiency, and by focusing more on the continuous evaluation and achievement of professional goals, he has increased the review’s relevance for departmental and college leadership. We are very fortunate to have Pete’s steady hand guiding this important mission, even as he does double-duty as Faculty Senate President.
Finally, I am always pleased to see the impact our colleagues have on the national stage, sometimes quite literally on a stage. This story about the performance of our fellows in the Gastroenterology & Hepatology Fellowship program is one such. After besting nearly 130 other GI fellowship programs across the country, Drs. Kartik Soota and Jagpal Klair finished in third place at the American College of Gastroenterology’s recent “GI Jeopardy” quiz bowl. Two other fellows, Drs. Rahman Nakshabendi and Maen Masadeh, received the Presidential Poster Award for their submitted abstract. Well done!