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Clinical Excellence Track Will Provide a New Path to Promotion

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Clinical Excellence Track Will Provide a New Path to Promotion

Clinical Excellence Track Will Provide a New Path to Promotion
Karen Nitkin

Date: 06/13/2019

Patients from all over the world come to Johns Hopkins for treatment from nephrologist Duvuru Geetha. She is an expert in a complex kidney condition: renal disease caused by systemic small vessel vasculitis, a rare autoimmune disease.

Geetha’s research is advancing understanding and treatment of these difficult cases. But she may be better known for the calm, confident and respectful way she communicates with patients and enlists them in their own care.

She was honored for that strength in 2010, as one of the first inductees into the Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence. “She made me feel as if I’m a partner,” one of her patients from North Carolina said during the induction ceremony. “I couldn’t have had a better, more caring and more inspiring doctor.”

Soon, Geetha, an associate professor who has been on the Johns Hopkins faculty since 1998, may have a new path to promotion, one that rewards her skill and empathy with patients.

Johns Hopkins Medicine plans to launch a clinical excellence promotion track for faculty this fall. The track will be as rigorous as the current scholarship-focused career path, but could be a better fit for faculty members such as Geetha, who have a primary focus on clinical work. 

“Hopkins has always had a tripartite mission — research, education and clinical care; however, our traditional promotional track has not equally valued all missions,” says Cynthia Rand, senior associate dean for faculty. “The single track has favored people who have been historically inclined toward research and peer-reviewed publication. We want people to advance for all our missions.”

Most other academic medical institutions have long had clinical tracks in order to recruit, retain and promote the best physicians, Rand notes.

At Johns Hopkins, the clinical excellence track is a continuation of work that began with the 2008 launch of the Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence, created to recognize, reward and learn from exceptional physicians. 

The Academy inducts new members each year, chosen through a competitive process that begins with peer nominations and includes confidential assessments from patients, peers, students and non-physician colleagues. It currently has 81 members, who serve as role models to other physicians, work together on research that advances understanding of clinical excellence, and share their knowledge through Grand Rounds and other talks.

The new clinical excellence track will use similar metrics to create an equally demanding path toward tenured professorship, says Rand, who has been working on the initiative with others including David Eisele, department director of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery, Scott Wright, director of the Miller Coulson Academy, and Janice Clements, vice dean for faculty in the school of medicine.

“This is a rigorous potential path for faculty who meet very high standards for clinical excellence,” Rand says, noting that successful candidates must also shine outside the clinic, by actively disseminating clinical excellence scholarship at the regional and national level, teaching, and participating in the discovery mission.

A new Clinical Excellence Promotions Committee will review promotion applications in the clinical excellence track, Rand explains. The committee will look at materials including metrics of quality and safety as well as references from patients, peers, and regional and national leaders.

The first applicants will likely be Miller Coulson inductees such as Geetha, an associate professor since 2014, says Rand. Though Geetha could eventually win promotion the traditional way, she thinks the clinical track best represents her mission and strength.

Geetha already amassed much of the material she’ll need for promotion when she became a Miller Coulson Academy member.

What’s more, Geetha says, becoming a professor on the new track would underscore her role as a clinician. “That’s my strength, and that’s what drives everything I do,” she says.