Finding the joy

Last week’s news that the search for a new VPMA/Dean would have to be paused was disappointing. There is no other way to put it, and it would be a disservice to you if I did not use this space to say a few words about it, especially as it has an impact on the search for a permanent Chair for our department. I share your eagerness for the end of what feels like an extended period of transitions. It is still too early to say what the definitive next steps in the search will be but, as the announcement makes clear, the search will resume as soon as the committee has reassessed the current landscape and recalibrated our expectations and needs. I am grateful that UI President Barbara Wilson and Provost Kevin Kregel will reach out to stakeholders throughout the institution for more input in the coming weeks. These listening sessions will guide us all as several potential options are considered. Yes, this process will extend the time the search will take and will further delay the many other searches that depend on its results. But I believe that we can see the positive here, an opportunity to better define our institution’s needs and what kind of leaders best represent our values. This also gives us in the department time to assess our own values. Together, we have already revised the promotions process, empowered a staff engagement committee, and started thinking about how to increase philanthropy to support our work. More to come in the next months. My door is always open, and I hope that if you have questions, concerns, or ideas, please reach out to me, either directly or through our Feedback Form, which does allow for anonymous submissions. Thank you for your continued effort, patience, and dedication to our critical work through these unique days.

I have been thinking about work and our relationship to it lately. A recent celebration of Dr. Joseph Zabner’s impact featured many wonderful moments, a chance to reconnect with old friends and remember what is important. The evening was a well-deserved tribute to a career that is still having an impact on medicine and on the colleagues and trainees who have worked alongside him. In his speech, Dr. Michael Welsh described the joy that Dr. Zabner continuously brings to his work, as a clinician, scientist, and as a mentor. He described Dr. Zabner’s ability to see any experiment’s outcome as a chance to ask another question, maintaining a constant curiosity and excitement for the chance to discover. Dr. Welsh pointed out the effect Dr. Zabner’s joy for discovery has had on trainees who have worked with him over the years, shaping how they themselves approached inquiry in research. It is no wonder why it was just announced that Dr. Zabner will be presented with the Daryl and Nancy Granner Distinguished Mentor Award next year. Congratulations!

The influence of mentors on their trainees was on full display, as was the joy of community during last week’s Research Day. For nearly six decades, we have hosted a showcase of the wide panoply of research that exists within the Department of Internal Medicine. One of the more recent innovations though has been the Director’s Choice invited talks, in which the co-directors select two abstracts from the poster submissions and ask them to deliver oral presentations to the larger audience. This year’s presentations from Tahsin Khatei on the link between acid-sensing ion channels and exercise-induced muscle soreness and from Christopher Halbur on rheumatology patient responses to the COVID-19 vaccine were both excellent choices. My thanks to Drs. Michi Goto and Prajwal Gurung on a successful Research Day and to all the judges, presenters, and organizers. The Division of Infectious Diseases will now pass the leadership of this tradition to a new division and a new pair of directors within the department. In this way, we ensure we get fascinating keynote addresses from visiting faculty, such as this year’s from Dr. Michael David on the remarkably variable and pesky Staph aureus bacteria families. Stay tuned for news on this important celebration of all of your hard work.

Finally, I must also use this platform to make a couple requests. First, be a “Flu Fighter” and get this year’s flu vaccination as soon as possible. More information about logging into ReadySet and how to get your shot is available on The Loop. In addition, the 2022 Working at Iowa survey link should be waiting for you in your Outlook inbox. It is so important that you take the time to make your voice heard. Our committee formed to address last year’s results will meet just once more before we share the actions they have recommended we implement. Their work was informed by last year’s survey, and we intend to do the same with this year’s results, so please help us get started in the right direction by responding. More information on this year’s survey is here.

About Isabella Grumbach, MD, PhD

Isabella Grumbach, MD, PhD; Interim Chair and DEO, Department of Internal Medicine; Kate Daum Endowed Professor; Professor of Medicine – Cardiovascular Medicine; Professor of Radiation Oncology

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