Becoming an Expert and Achieving Tenure

To be successful in academic medicine, one of your overarching strategies is to become an expert in one or two clinical or administrative areas. To start the process of becoming an expert, you should identify senior faculty members in your area of interest and then make yourself known to them. Read the literature to see who has published frequently in the content area you have targeted. At professional events such as national conferences, ask other attendees at all levels of their careers to help you identify the prominent faculty members who are experts in your targeted field. Once you have identified one or more senior faculty at your own institution or at another, you should contact them. These days, email works very well, but be sure to be succinct when you initiate this important dialogue. Alternatively, you can introduce yourself in person at a conference. Maybe you could eat a meal together at the meeting or share a cab from the conference to the airport. Once you have engaged a senior faculty member, find out if he or she has ongoing projects on which you could collaborate. Alternatively, you can propose your own independent projects and ask if the faculty member would be willing to serve as your consultant and senior author. Having a distinguished faculty member as a senior author on your manuscript may enhance the chances that it is accepted for publication.

The next step in becoming an academic expert is to publish, either original research or clinical information such as textbook chapters.   Writing a review article in your area of interest serves several purposes. First, you do not have to write a grant, receive funding, conduct research, and analyze data before you can even start writing. You will familiarize yourself with the literature on the topic. You will learn not only the most current clinical or educational information but also see which authors are publishing in the field and which journals publish papers in your area. As soon as your first major paper is published, then you are seen as an expert by your local, national, and international colleagues as well as by the media.