Without translation, bench science is just knowledge. Similarly, soliciting feedback without application risks alienating your data source. Why respond to a survey if your answers just get filed in a drawer? It was with this belief and a respect for our members’ time in mind that we decided not to let last year’s Employee Engagement survey’s results go to waste. Two weeks ago, we polled our members about their willingness to serve on a sort of translation committee and whether they had any actionable ideas that the committee might consider in addition to the survey results we received last fall. Nearly twenty of you volunteered to serve on the Staff Engagement Action committee and more than three dozen submitted suggestions for changes, touching on a broad array of topics. Thank you for the wonderful ideas, for your thoughtfulness, and your willingness to serve.
We will soon reach out to the volunteers who will join this committee to schedule their first meeting, and then they will take the reins in determining what changes to implement. Originally, we thought that we would keep the group small—perhaps five to seven members—but given the response and the remarkably even distribution across faculty, staff, and trainees, we are extending invitations to everyone who volunteered. Stacie Vik and Denise Zang in the administrative team will help coordinate the committee’s activity. We are also reaching out to a skilled facilitator who can guide the committee quickly and efficiently toward three actionable changes in three meetings or fewer. The committee will have the data and responses from the Employee Engagement survey, as well as this more recent round of responses.
Those suggestions ranged in scope and scale, but there was not a bad idea in the bunch. Adjustments to dress codes, increased interaction between junior faculty and leadership, reducing our carbon footprint, changes to the promotions process, and a greater variety of vegan and vegetarian food options were just some of the topics addressed. Some ideas will take more work than others, but I am confident the committee will consider each one. In a separate effort, led by Dr. Christie Thomas, our Vice Chair for Faculty Advancement, we will soon review the promotions process. There was one idea raised that I intend to implement immediately and would encourage others to consider it as well. One of our lowest scoring areas in the Employee Engagement survey was on the question of “ability to disconnect when away from work.” We are besieged by an endless stream of pinging notifications and many of us feel a pressure to address each ping no matter the hour of the day. It is time to make our technology work for us, to accommodate our needs. As a first step, I will add a note to my email signature block that assures recipients that I do not expect a response until normal working hours have resumed. An email from the chair in the evening or on a weekend does not obligate you to drop everything and respond. Rest and time with family and friends after working hours are urgent. Cleaning out your inbox is not. This is a first step. I am hopeful that more changes in this area will follow.
New ideas can also be found at conferences and professional society meetings. I was pleased to see us offer our own in a display of Internal Medicine ingenuity and scholarship at both the recent AAIM meeting and the SGIM meeting. Virtual meetings are certainly cost-effective, but they do not have the same energy and focus that comes from in-person meetings. The end of this week also sees the resumption of two in-person meetings closer to home. The 23rd Annual Updates in Infectious Diseases meeting will focus on its intersection with primary care and a heavy emphasis on COVID-19. And the Midwest Cystic Fibrosis Consortium meeting returns to Iowa later today and all day tomorrow. We hosted this event in 2018 and I am certain the exchange of ideas will be productive and fulfilling. Another meeting we can be proud to have representation at is the American Thoracic Society’s meeting next month. MSTP student Guillermo Romano Ibarro will travel to San Francisco on one of ATS’s scholarships where he will be honored during the Diversity Forum. If you have not read his story or did not know it already, and need an undeniable example of what makes Iowa such a special place, you would be hard-pressed to find a better one.