Designing a Comprehensive Professional Development Program in a Surgery Department: Process, Measures, and Lessons Learned

Laura Torbeck, Gary Dunnington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Departments within academic medical centers are typically comprised of clinical and research faculty, administrative staff, residents, and in many instances advance practice providers (APPs). Each member of these groups of people, at 1 point, took time, effort, and money to recruit, hire, and train. It is therefore important to consider ways to increase the “return on investment” of hiring each member of a department as well as maintaining a high level of department vitality. The Department of Surgery at Indiana University has never had a robust professional development program for all of its members. A challenge, therefore, presented itself of how best to increase faculty engagement in faculty development and to initiate opportunities for professional development for APPs and staff. Intervention: We implemented a professional development program that focused on academic success with emphasis on teaching and leadership and tailored activities to meet the needs of each member. Professional development was promoted by targeting select groups of people within our department to engage rather than have members go to the effort of seeking development on their own. Setting: The intervention occurred in the Department of Surgery at Indiana University which is comprised of ∼125 faculty, 100 residents and/or fellows, 60 APPs, and 19 lead business administrators for 6 divisions, all working within 5 downtown hospitals comprising the academic health center. Results: Great effort has been placed into defining measures for each activity including measures of engagement, completion of deliverables, and tracking new leadership positions obtained by participants. Between 2014 and 2017, the number of faculty development activities that faculty attended has tripled since inception of our professional development program. Conclusions: For those looking to enhance or begin a professional development program, appointing a director or vice chair to oversee and champion the initiative is key. From our experience, putting effort first into developing a junior faculty development program to capture internal motivation early on is likely best. For leadership development, selecting faculty to form faculty learning cohorts worked well. Finally, to deal with the barriers of time and competing interests, building in protected time for professional development is essential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)727-737
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Professionalism
  • advance practice providers
  • professional development
  • program
  • residents
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education

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