Volume 8, No. 3, Autumn 2006

Christine Abrass, MD

SELAM President 2006-07

Regular Features

From the Presidents
Event Reports

Editor’s Corner

Communications Committee

Board of Directors

Book Reviews

Issues in the Workplace


Photo Gallery

SELAM Mentors

Membership Information

How Can I Support SELAM?

Due date for inclusion in next newsletter: November 27th, 2006

Photo Credits:
Roberta Sonnino, M.D., F.A.C.S, F.A.A.P.
Deidra Lyngard, M.F.A.
Kris Lohr, M.D.







FROM THE PRESIDENT--------------------------


As we entered the 10th year of SELAM International, we asked Past Presidents to describe the impact and value of being President on their career lives. We asked the questions:

• Describe your career roles, skills, plans, goals, and long-term dreams – as you contemplated becoming President of SELAM, while you were President, and where you are now.
• How did the SELAM membership and leadership role help or hinder your career development?
• What were your goals for SELAM while being President? What plans and resources helped you achieve your goals?
• As you look back, what was your most significant achievement(s) during your Presidency?
• At this point in time, what experience as President do you value most?
• Was there a humorous incident that occurred (even if it did not seem so funny at the time)?
• Anything you would like to say?

Here is the first installment.

Deborah C. German, MD, 1999-2000
Current position: Petersdorf Scholar-in-Residence, Association of American Medical Colleges

As a member of the inaugural Class of ELAM (Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine), I was one of the small group of SELAM (Society for Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine) International founders. We founded SELAM International because we wanted to be sure that many other women would have the experience we had in ELAM. At the time Allegheny University (in Philadelphia PA) was in a state of flux, and the fate of one of its programs, ELAM, seemed to be tenuous at best. Creating a strong alumnae group, SELAM International, to support ELAM and to provide a forum that would allow us to support and encourage each other was the motivation. We also realized that many women who were not participants in ELAM could network with SELAM and build leadership skills.

I did not seek to be President but, when asked to serve, I did so gladly. My goals for SELAM in its infancy were that it would grow, become strong, provide a place for women to continue the leadership learning that began with ELAM, and provide a network of resources to continually rejuvenate our careers. I had no career goals for myself in accepting the Presidency, but as I look back I know I gained more than I gave.

The experience of being President resembled experiences I had from leading other professional organizations. I was surrounded by women who were smart, capable and dedicated. There was never a loss for opinions about how to get something done. The most challenging aspect was achieving consensus. Sometimes we had to agree to disagree and move on. Typically, when people volunteered to do something, they did it and exceeded my expectations. We did the work and we had fun doing it! It was great to start with nothing, a clean slate, and to build something.

My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test results from ELAM days describe me as a builder, an architect of systems who enjoys complexity. My first step in building the SELAM team was to get the current ELAM class to become a part of our founding group. I remember speaking to the ELAM class about the glass (acrylic) ceiling and how to get around it. (You climb out the window or walk out the door and enter through the door or window at the next level. Sounds easy!) This was a combined education and recruitment effort. In the process I made many new friends and gained much more than I gave. Many of the Presidents who succeeded me were from that group. They have continued the organization in the spirit of its founders. I remember the enormous contributions of Kristine M. Lohr, MD (University of Tennessee, Memphis) and Wendy Weinstock Brown, MD (Jesse Brown VA, with faculty appointments at Northwestern and the University of Illinois); though not Presidents, their leadership was presidential!

One of the most powerful leadership lessons reinforced by my experience as SELAM President has less to do with being a leader and is more about those who are led. As President, I was continually struck by the ability of those around me to accomplish the “impossible”. They did so with an alarming regularity. Initially I attributed it to the meticulous ELAM admissions process; these were exceptional people. I have since learned that we are all capable of achieving what seems impossible when we serve each other. I used this understanding in accomplishing a hospital turn around, taking monthly losses of $2 million forward to gains of $4 million over a 6-month time period without the recommended 10-15% workforce reduction. Doctors, nurses, housekeepers, food service workers and the entire community accomplished this. The results came from harnessing the energy of relationships and the desire that lives in each of us to make a difference. The lessons learned in ELAM and put into action leading SELAM are applicable in all of our life’s work. I would encourage anyone reluctant to lead to do so and am thankful for the opportunity that was given to me.

Sharon P. Turner, DDS, JD, 2000-2001
Current position: Dean, College of Dentistry, University of Kentucky

Describe your career roles, skills, plans, goals, and long-term dreams – as you contemplated becoming President of SELAM, while you were President, and where you are now.
At the time that I became President of SELAM, I was Dean of the School of Dentistry at Oregon Health and Science University. Before becoming Dean, I had served 19 years on the faculty at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and moved up to Associate Dean for Administration and Planning. My position at UNC had given me experience in finance, human resources, practice plan oversight, risk management, and facilities planning which were of great value in my first deanship. I was also heavily involved with the American Dental Education Association’s governance as a member of the Administrative Board of the Council of Deans. In addition, I served as a site visitor for the Commission on Dental Accreditation as well as a member of their Predoctoral Review Committee. My personal long-term goals at that time were to begin preparing myself to be more attractive as a candidate for more global higher education positions beyond dental academics. My move to the deanship of the College of Dentistry at University of Kentucky in 2003 has allowed me to enhance my leadership skills even further, as well as to begin service on committees that deal with issues broader than dental academics. I still dream of becoming president of a small college or university some day.

How did the SELAM membership and leadership role help or hinder your career development?
My year as president enhanced my ability to work across professional disciplines and increased my ability to network with others across the country. SELAM was relatively new and needed much “care and feeding” in terms of clarifying the ongoing organizational structure, purpose and financial stability. Working through these issues and expanding the membership base to help strengthen the financial position of the organization helped me build skills that clearly apply to many situations.

What were your goals for SELAM while being President? What plans and resources helped you achieve your goals?
My goals were to stabilize the organizational structure, refine the by-laws, work on an operations manual, finalize the 501(c) (3) status of the organization, and do everything I could to bolster the financial position of the organization. I worked hard to expand the number of non-ELUM members and to build the auction into a bigger and better event that would captivate current ELAMers, ELUMers and others attending the annual Continuing Education (CE) Program. I wanted the CE program to grow in attendance and was thrilled with the quality of the program during my presidential year; Chris Abrass put together dynamite sessions.

As you look back, what was your most significant achievement(s) during your Presidency?
Not screwing up what P.J., Nancy and Debbie (the first three Presidents) had built!! The organization was young and in a precarious position both financially and structurally. I spent a good deal of time in telephone conferences with many of the Board members trying to attend to the care and feeding of the young organization.

At this point in time, what experience as President do you value most?
Working with the others on the SELAM Board of Directors not only to preserve but also to enhance the young organization was the most valuable experience of my term. Getting to know others from different ELAM classes was fun as well as professionally important in terms of network building.

Was there a humorous incident that occurred (even if it did not seem so funny at the time)?
I remember a special meeting in Chicago was called. I had indicated that I would room with Nancy Hardt because I wanted to get to know her better. I got there before she did and went to bed. She came in ravenously hungry some time after 10 pm and convinced me to go find something to eat. I don’t remember what we ate, but I remember that we had a good time getting to know each other.

Anything you would like to say?
I truly considered it a great honor to serve as President of SELAM. This is such a dynamic group and its members draw strength and inspiration from each other!

Joanne M. Conroy, MD, 2001-2002
Current position: Chief Medical Officer and Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Western Region Atlantic Health System, Morristown Memorial Hospital, Morristown, New Jersey
Sensing and Intuition: SELAM Leadership

Since serving a leadership role in SELAM, I have had the opportunity to sit on many boards and watch many positive and negative leadership behaviors. The SELAM Board of Directors, for all of our eccentricities, is a Board gathered by the purest of motives…to advance the organization that has been so giving to us. For example, we recruited funds for the SELAM budget and increased visibility for SELAM through inauguration of the SELAM Award for Excellence, now awarded to leaders in both the Association of American Medical Colleges as well as the American Dental Education Association. All the Board members contributed their personal time and expense to attend meetings and performed a tremendous amount of work between meetings without financial remuneration. No one served just to add a “notch” to their CV, as I see in many other NFP (Not for Profit) professional boards. There was not the tiresome ora-tory and positioning I am subjected to on other boards.

That is not to say that the SELAM Board members did not have our differences, and we could disagree over the strangest things…but we resolved these conflicts in an honest open fashion. When the meeting was over, those issues were put to rest. What I did see was that the group as a whole exhibited a group personality as well…the one aspect of that I want to highlight is how the group gathered information (aka Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Instrument). I discovered that they were able to be both sensing and intuitive at the same time…the individuals and group could be very self absorbed but at the same time still be sensitive to the emotions within the group and of individuals. The group dynamic was focused, purposeful, and embracing all at once…the entire spectrum of that Myers-Briggs characteristic. I was recently the lucky beneficiary of this sensing/ intuitive trait. I arrived as a board examiner for the ABA in San Diego with what I thought was a virus. I struggled through the first part of the week. I was so ill; I could not appreciate how sick I really was. I could still make small talk about business and professional politics with the remainder of the group…the vast majority were male. Fortunately, another female senior examiner came over to me as I was waiting for the day’s exams to start and asked, ”How are you?” I said, “Not good…I think this virus has lingered too long.” She immediately hopped on her cell phone, called anyone she knew in San Diego, secured an appointment for me to be seen at noon (at Vivian Reznik’s shop, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla). I presented with a temperature of 1030F, heart rate of 140, oxygen saturation of 92% and a diagnosis of Strep pneumonia. The story gets a little more interesting as I write this, waiting to be discharged to home with a PIC line and 10 days of IV antibiotics….but the point is…

Women have the incredible capacity to move across the Myers-Briggs spectrum in terms of how they receive information….from the statistically driven sensors to the intuitive end of the spectrum. And they seem to do it effortlessly and naturally. They can be totally focused on their short term and long term career goals but still have their antennae up…sensing the well being and perspective of those around them. I see this in individuals and organizationally when I observe women in leadership every day.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with so many dedicated women in SELAM who have helped me become both a better leader and follower.

Karen P. West, DMD, MPH, 2004-2005
Current position: Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Dentistry, University of Kentucky

As a member of the ELAM class of 1998-99, becoming the 2004-05 President of SELAM was one of the farthest things from my mind. I stood in awe of those confident and highly skilled women who spoke to and mentored my class. I had only recently assumed an administrative role as Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry and had yet to be comfortable with my current responsibilities, much yet establish long term career goals.

The dental alums of ELAM before me, however, were not going to let me sit idle and watch the professional world pass by. Through much encouragement and support by these extraordinary friends and colleagues, I joined SELAM and became involved at the leadership level with this remarkable and very special organization. The path to leadership within the organization has developed into an effective learning model for those aspiring to be President. Each position, beginning with 3rd Vice-President, provided me with the necessary experience and knowledge to function as an effective leader.

My goals for SELAM as President were primarily focused on increasing the scope and visibility of SELAM and providing a forum for its leadership to concentrate on advancing to the next level. During my presidency, SELAM piloted its first Continuing Education (CE) program at the annual fall meeting of the Association for American Medical Colleges. This tradition has continued. This program now draws an audience from both within and outside of SELAM.

In addition, we instituted for all SELAM Board members a ½-day preconference meeting prior to the annual spring CE course in Philadelphia. Focusing on SELAM’s vision for the future, this preconference meeting allowed Board members to brainstorm, strategize and plan for achieving long-term goals.

Two projects raised funds for SELAM in addition to the annual auction. First, Simin Dadparvar, MD, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and her 1999-2000 ELAM Class supported work with Philadelphia University (formerly known as the Philadelphia College of Textile and Design) to design a SELAM silk scarf, which became available for purchase in September 2004. Second, the 2003-04 ELUMs planned a shopping spree fundraiser at a local Philadelphia boutique, ML Lawrence and Company, which raised $3,056 for SELAM.

I am very proud of the direction that SELAM has taken and continue to support the organization in every way possible. SELAM gave me the leadership skills and training necessary to advance professionally at both the local and national levels. SELAM also gave me the opportunity to interact with a multitude of incredibly outstanding women who mentored me on a personal level. Because of them, I consider myself to be successful and happy in my chosen career. I have been blessed by their presence and their encouragement. I hope to be able to provide this same sort of mentoring for the women who have yet to come through.

© SELAM International