The University Record, May 7, 2001

ELAM Program gives midcareer boost

By Nancy Ross-Flanigan
News and Information Services

Denise Tate (from left to right), Hope Haefner and Allen Lichter. Photo by Susanne Savaria, courtesy ELAM
For Hope Haefner, her year as a fellow in the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women was an opportunity to network and discuss topics from mentoring to financial management. Denise Tate appreciated the chance to sharpen her negotiating skills, polish her public speaking and prepare to serve as a role model for junior faculty. As their fellowship year nears its end, the two Medical School faculty members are reflecting on their experiences and looking ahead to benefits they expect to reap.

“The ELAM program has been very valuable to me,” says Tate, associate professor and director of research in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and director of the Model Spinal Cord Injury Care System. “It has provided me with leadership skills that I need to occupy positions of greater responsibility—administrative skills, financial skills, preparation in personnel management.”

“It’s an amazing program,” adds Haefner, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Center for Vulvar Diseases. “It has really reinforced my institutional commitment. Hearing people talk about their departments and institutions has made me realize how strong we are and how we can still improve.”

The competitive fellowship program, which selects about 40 participants each year, helps prepare midcareer women faculty at academic health centers for leadership roles. While U.S. medical and dental schools are attracting increasing numbers of female students, women are still rare in senior academic administrative positions at such institutions. Of the nation’s 125 medical schools, only seven have woman as deans; three women (one of whom is an ELAM alumna) serve as deans at the 55 U.S. dental schools. The effects of the imbalance spill out into society, ELAM administrators believe. Fewer women heading academic health centers mean less emphasis on women’s health issues, they assert.

ELAM aims to rectify the imbalance by offering training in the skills, perspectives and knowledge that managers need and by focusing on issues of special concern to women leaders. Through in-depth case analyses, small-group interactions and contact with women currently in leadership roles, fellows learn such skills as managing limited financial resources and finding new sources of support, integrating information technology, balancing professional and personal goals, communicating effectively and developing a peer network.

The program includes two, weeklong sessions of intensive study in the Philadelphia area, attendance at the Association of American Medical Colleges’ annual meeting, and independent assignments and an institutional project completed between the fall and spring sessions. The spring session concludes with a two-day Forum on Emerging Issues, which deans of the fellows’ institutions attend with the fellows.

The ELAM program, sponsored by the Institute for Women’s Health at MCP Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, reflects that university’s long commitment to training women in medicine. One of the two medical institutions that merged in 1993 to become MCP Hahnemann began as the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, founded in 1850 as the nation’s first medical school for women.

Tate, who is working to broaden and implement the faculty research incentive plan she devised as her institutional project, was impressed with the real-world feel of the ELAM sessions. In one exercise, for example, participants were given hypothetical financial and program details and had to present a budget-cutting plan to a medical school dean, two attorneys and their peers in a boardroom setting. They also had a chance to try out different budget scenarios using a computer simulation.

With Haefner and Tate, a total of four U-M medical and dental faculty women have participated in the ELAM program to date. Lisa Tedesco, vice president and secretary of the University and a professor in the School of Dentistry, was one of the first two dental faculty women nationwide accepted into the ELAM program in 1996. Eva Feldman, professor of neurology in the Medical School and co-director of the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Clinic, completed the program last year.

Tedesco, who was appointed to her current administrative position two years after being accepted into the ELAM program, says the fellowship offered her “a real opportunity to sharpen existing skills and gain some new ones.” In particular, she says, she appreciates the training she received in planning budgets and programs. ELAM also provided invaluable guidance in setting goals and standing up to the kinds of challenges that often derail women on their way to leadership positions.

“You learn to face and work through the challenges of the glass ceiling instead of denying them and thinking that it’s simply good, hard work that will get you recognition,” says Tedesco. “It’s not simply about persevering; it’s about helping others see that you’re ready to move forward.”

The Michigan-ELAM connection has grown stronger recently with a commitment of financial support. The Medical School, the School of Dentistry and the Office of the Provost have pledged a total of $40,000 for each of two years to co-sponsor the two-day Forum on Emerging Issues.

The pledge is just the latest example of the University’s commitment to advancing the careers of women in medicine and dentistry—a tradition that dates back to the 1800s, says Medical School Dean Allen Lichter. In 1871, the first female student graduated from the Medical School; the School of Dentistry graduated two women in 1880, just four years after its founding. A decade later, the first Black woman to receive a dental degree in the United States graduated from the U-M. This year, for the first time, more than half of first-year School of Dentistry students are women. In addition, three of the School of Dentistry’s six associate and assistant deans are women. The Medical School has seen similar gains. Since 1994, the number of women in senior faculty positions in the Medical School’s three career tracks has nearly doubled, from 60 to 110 in September 2000.

“We are heavily committed to seeing women advance into leadership in academic medicine,” Lichter says, “and we recognize that this needs to happen not merely by accident, but by design. ELAM is one of the strongest programs in the country for introducing women to the issues of academic medicine and helping them build the skills needed to advance their careers.”

School of Dentistry Dean William Kotowicz agrees. “ELAM offers an excellent opportunity for participants to network with other women in leadership roles throughout the country,” he says. “I believe it is especially important for women dental faculty to interact with their peers in medical science, and this fellowship encourages such interaction. I heartily support the program.”