How Do We Hire and Retain Faculty?

December 18, 2019 by School of Medicine Webmaster

Dean David Wilkes, MD

I’ve always heard that “like attracts like.” At the UVA School of Medicine, we’re seeing this in action with regard to faculty hiring. Faculty at other institutions are paying attention to our exceptional educators, clinicians, and scientists — and instead of waiting for open positions, they are contacting us to ask about joining our faculty. They are interested in our excellence, reputation, and results.

How do we at the School of Medicine make decisions regarding the number and types of faculty positions we hire? When we hire, we have to consider our tripartite mission of education, patient care, and research. These missions support each other and are aligned with institutional missions of service, providing experiences that enhance student learning, and enabling discoveries that improve the quality of health across the street and across the oceans.

The SOM does not have a target number for recruiting; instead, recruitments are based on strategic priorities. The School must ensure that the needs of patients and learners are met by recruiting and retaining faculty who can provide the clinical care required to treat patients and teach students the necessary clinical skills for becoming a doctor. Our clinical faculty numbers are fluid and driven by clinical demand, with hiring requests undergoing rigorous review by the Physician Workforce Planning Committee.

As a research institution, the SOM aligns its recruitment and retention of investigators with strategic thematic priorities. The research themes are: cancer, cardiovascular, neurosciences, organ transplant, precision medicine, metabolic disorders, and regenerative medicine. Using these themes as guides helps to ensure that the SOM will advance discovery and knowledge in key areas; will support a vibrant and relevant experience of learning and application for our students; and will contribute to an improved quality of life for people throughout the world who benefit from bench discoveries to bedside applications. New positions in the basic sciences must be approved by the dean and the senior associate dean for research, and are largely created in the recruitment or retention packages for department chairs or center directors.

It has been expressed to me that there is a perception “people are leaving the med school.” However the data show the opposite is happening. During FY17-19, approximately 107 faculty (about 3% annually) left our ranks. Sixty-one percent were assistant professors. In the same period, the School hired 233 faculty, of which 74% were assistant professors and 17 were Strategic Hiring Initiative recruits. The high number of assistant professors is indicative of the fluid demand for faculty to support the clinical mission. And this summer, departments reported that they were anticipating a total of 19 departures (about 1.6%) in the first half of this fiscal year. Of these, nine were full professors – and all were either retiring or being promoted to department chair at their new institutions. Retirement or career advancement — as reasons for departure — paints a picture of fulfillment and opportunity found at UVA.

Looking at these numbers tells me that our reputation is growing. We are seen as “the place to be” and physicians, educators, and researchers across the country are knocking on our door. Our work is important and faculty want to come to Charlottesville to be a part of it.  At the same we remain focused on retaining our current faculty.

In the coming months, UVA Health will begin strategic planning. We may change thematic areas of focus for recruitment in developing the plan. If we need to, we will. Being agile in today’s fast-moving world ensures success in all mission areas and creates a bright future for the School of Medicine. I look forward to hearing your voices throughout this process.

David S. Wilkes, MD
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science

Filed Under: Clinical, Faculty, Research