“Paying attention to something—defining it as an issue and something we care about—is Step 1,” said Aimee Becker, MD, MBA, UW Health chief medical officer and associate professor of anesthesiology. regarding the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s Building Community Initiative.
Step 2 for Dr. Becker and 17 other members of the Building Community Professionalism and Accountability Work Team began in November 2018, when they convened to develop a set of strategic recommendations to advance two goals: (1) ensure that every member of the SMPH is aware of, has a shared understanding of, and is committed to our core values; and (2) reward good behavior and hold people accountable for inappropriate behavior.
Composed of SMPH faculty and staff and co-chaired by Dr. Becker and Christine Seibert, MD, associate dean for medical student education and services, the team met over the next nine months with assistance from UW-Madison’s Office of Strategic Consulting. Their efforts culminated in a report presented to the Building Community Steering Committee in June 2019 that included three strategic recommendations:
- Recommendation #1: Develop an understanding and modeling of professionalism and accountability in SMPH employees.
- Recommendation #2: Create an infrastructure and process to hold people accountable for their behavior.
- Recommendation #3: Empower positive change in climate and culture through leadership.
These recommendations became core elements of the Building Community five-year strategic plan released in November 2020.
“Each and every one of us, regardless of our role, is entitled to be educated in and work in an environment that is categorically mutually respectful,” said Dr. Becker, noting that the work team sought to determine what is needed in terms of structures and processes within SMPH to help develop people and hold them accountable.
“Everybody acknowledged that, at times, we have professionalism and accountability issues. It wasn’t a surprise,” said team member Anne Stahr, MS, director of faculty development programming. “I think that we were able to start crafting a shared language and understanding about what professionalism and accountability are. This was the start of the conversation.”
In addition to strategic recommendations, the group also identified challenges, concerns, key partners, needed resources and next steps to move the effort forward. And in spite of some priorities and resources shifting due to the pandemic, these recommendations led to the creation of another group—the Shared Understanding Work Team—and its development of Shared Guidelines for Professional Development, which were adopted in January 2021.
“This is like a stepping-stone process,” Stahr concluded, “perhaps there are some gaps and some cracks and fissures where we might fall down—things that are beyond our control, such as the pandemic and the effect of the pandemic on our fiscal resources. But we can’t give up hope, because when we give up hope, it will stop us from trying to move forward to reach the next stone and continue to do the work.”