“It is a huge honor. I’m still in a bit of a shock that I have the opportunity to attend.” Next month, Heather Reisinger, PhD, associate professor in General Internal Medicine, will begin the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM®) at Drexel University’s College of Medicine. The intensive, one-year fellowship for women physicians, researchers, and educators in academic medicine offers a limited number of national candidates the opportunity to receive training specifically aimed at helping them advance into leadership roles.
Despite a growing parity between men and women graduating from medical school and other health sciences programs, the number of women in leadership roles in academic medicine still lags significantly behind men. “ELAM is part of the mission to change that trend,” Reisinger said, “and I’m committed to being a part of that mission with them.”
ELAM’s mission is already beginning to bear fruit, with its more than 1,200 graduates serving in leadership roles at nearly 270 academic health centers (AHCs), ranging from department head to university president. Increasing the number of women in leadership roles has benefits beyond the already worthy goal of equal representation. “Placing more women in positions of senior leadership at AHCs,” ELAM’s mission statement explains, “will provide important new perspectives for decision making and help speed the curricular, organizational and policy changes needed to ensure a more effective, representative and responsive health care system.”
Reisinger says she first learned about the program from Lois Geist, MD, University of Iowa’s associate provost for faculty and professor in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine. At the time Geist went through ELAM, she had just been appointed associate dean for faculty affairs in the Carver College of Medicine. She said she valued the relationships she developed in the program, particularly with leaders in faculty affairs from other institutions who also happened to be enrolled in ELAM at the time. Another highlight she said was learning “about the different ways people lead, and do so successfully.” Since her time in the program, she has stayed involved with ELAM as a liaison, a learning community advisor, and a mentor. “It opened up a lot of doors I would not have otherwise had access to,” she said.
Over the course of the year, Reisinger will read and respond to distributed course materials online and attend three week-long residencies in September, January, and April. Each ELAM fellow will also be responsible for designing and implementing a large-scale project of their own. As a medical anthropologist, Reisinger says she will likely explore her interest in how clinicians make sense of “big data” and use it to improve quality. She says that she is also “staying open to opportunities” that may present themselves before she commits to a project this fall.
Already a leader in the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, Reisinger anticipates that much of what she learns in the coming year will be immediately applicable in her role as Associate Director for Engagement, Integration and Implementation and “other leadership positions I have within my programs of research,” including multiple roles at the Iowa City VA Health System. “I’m grateful for opportunities I have had throughout my career and the ways they presented themselves in surprising and unexpected ways. I hope to remain open to where the path leads and believe ELAM will prepare me for new surprises.”
ELAM is a core program of Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pa. The program continues the legacy of advancing women in medicine that began in 1850 with the founding of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, the nation’s first women’s medical school and a predecessor of today’s Drexel University College of Medicine. For more information on the ELAM program curriculum, faculty and participants, visit www.drexel.edu/elam.