New initiative aims to improve work and learning environment

Amid all the focus on curriculum transformation, research programs, facility improvements and other strategic endeavors, it can be easy to lose focus on the environmental milieu in which all this work takes place. Does SMPH’s working and learning environment support and enhance our success, or does the environment subtly undermine progress in ways we’re not fully aware of?

Some answers regarding the current environment have already been revealed through past surveys, including the AAMC Medical Student Survey, the SMPH’s Independent Student Analysis for LCME and a climate study of faculty life and work conducted by UW-Madison’s Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI). Among the findings were:

  • A disconnect between what students are taught about professionalism and what they observe among faculty
  • Concerns about public embarrassment within the learning environment
  • A perceived lack of faculty and student diversity
  • A desire for more expansive student wellness services

For female faculty, a picture emerged of:

  • Generally lower job satisfaction than male faculty
  • Hostile and intimidating workplace behavior, reportedly experienced by a third of women in the last three years

Over the past two years, we have already stepped up efforts to improve the climate and the learning environment and are seeing great results but we want to do more!

Over the next three years, we are committed to an even more ambitious project to enhance the working and learning environment at SMPH. We will delve further into these findings and identify better ways to address issues proactively. The UW-Madison’s Office of Strategic Consulting and its director, Jenny Faust, are facilitating the project. Faust also serves as associate vice provost for strategic initiatives.

A kickoff meeting held in January formally launched the initiative and resulted in a proposal to focus on strategic aims that include modeling  professionalism and excellence at all times and holding one another accountable to high professional standards and creating a culture of wellness for all members of our community.

Next steps will involve getting feedback on these focus areas and on specific goals and objectives associated with each one. Work groups will be assembled to do more detailed planning and implementation.