In March 2018, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) and American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) sponsored the Academic Skills Workshop in Charlotte, N.C. This year’s chairs Barbara Jung, MD, and Michael W. Fried, MD, FAASLD, as well as codirectors Marcia Cruz-Correa, MD, PhD, AGAF, FASGE, and Raymond Chung, MD, FAASLD, led a 2-day workshop featuring educational sessions and opportunities for mentorship and networking in academic gastroenterology and hepatology. The workshop featured sessions on how to navigate the job market, map out a career trajectory, develop fruitful mentoring relationships, apply for grant funding, and showcase research through manuscripts and oral presentations. Fellows and junior faculty from academic institutions across the United States were able to come together. Herein, two participants share their experiences at this event.
Clinical perspective from Sarah R. Lieber, MD
As a second-year gastroenterology fellow and aspiring transplant hepatologist, I found that this workshop provided an excellent framework and foundation for launching a career in academics and clinical research. It was especially effective at providing practical tips and tools for fellows and junior faculty on how to find an academic job, apply for research funding, and conduct written and oral presentations.
I was particularly moved by the personal stories and anecdotes from faculty members – many of whom are renowned leaders in the fields of GI and hepatology – who divulged the challenges and insecurities they had to overcome early in their careers. Sheila E. Crowe, MD, FRCPC, FACP, FACG, AGAF, gave an especially poignant talk on her career path from fellowship to becoming AGA president. She discussed the challenges unique to women in academic GI and hepatology, but left me feeling empowered and inspired by showcasing the many talents and success stories of her female colleagues and herself as well.
On Saturday, the AASLD held a special session that highlighted the personal stories and career trajectories of clinicians and researchers in the forefront of the field of hepatology – including AASLD president-elect Michael W. Fried, MD, FAASLD, and current AASLD President Ana Lok MD, FAASLD – among others. They emphasized the power of collaborative research that included harnessing the tools of molecular biology and Big Data to investigate the role of the microbiome and other novel subjects in liver disease. They advised us to seek out formal training when available, including master degrees or biostatistics training, to help us develop the skill sets necessary as independent researchers. They elaborated about their experiences serving on professional committees and giving oral presentations – essential to their career development – which allowed them to carve out a research niche and gain recognition as experts in their fields.
There were several powerful lessons and important themes that I take away from this workshop. The first is the importance of citizenship: Being a successful academician means not only putting in the clinical hours and being a prolific researcher but also being a good citizen. Supporting your colleagues, teaching mentees, and being a “team player” are all elements crucial to forming meaningful relationships and standing out as a valuable individual in your department. Second, perseverance is equally important; whether you are resubmitting applications for grant funding or reaching out to mentors in your area of interest, perseverance is the key to a successful career in academics. Third, remember that there is the important distinction between mentorship and sponsorship. While it is essential to have a selfless and supportive mentor who helps you cultivate your clinical and research interests, it is equally important to find a sponsor: an influential academician who can help you launch your career by acting as your advocate and opening doors to professional opportunities. Finally,you must always deliver. When mentors and sponsors give you opportunities to showcase your talents, always invest the time and effort to provide a high-quality performance. Be a good citizen who perseveres, seek out influential mentorship and sponsorship, and deliver on important professional tasks which will prime you to succeed as an academic clinical researcher in GI and hepatology.