Alicia Monroe, MD, is provost and senior vice president of academic and faculty affairs at Baylor College. She is an ELAM fellow of 2007 and recently attended the 2017 ELAM Leaders Forum where she spoke at graduation.
How has ELAM helped create a more inclusive environment in academic medicine, dentistry, public health, and pharmacy?
One way to build inclusive environments is to engage institutional leaders from colleges of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and public health, and have them identify common ground. All institutions need to focus on transition planning. All institutions need to create opportunities for women. Institutions that are committed to inclusion and equity often look at the data in their own faculty and notice the disparities between the number of women in the institution that are in the junior ranks—instructors, assistant professors, etc.—compared to the number of women who are in the professor and associate professor ranks. When institutions look at their data, determine their priorities, and think about how they can connect their need with a training opportunity, ELAM offers a solution that leads to more inclusivity.
ELAM’s inter-professional approach helps create a more inclusive environment as well. When you create an opportunity where women from different professions can actually get to know each other and can train together, it breaks down the silos of unawareness, of tacit assumptions and biases. It builds a community of women who are likeminded and committed to leadership, organizational development and change.
What skills should ELAM give to ELUMs and fellows in the future to best prepare them to lead in academic medicine, dentistry, public health and pharmacy?
The ongoing engagement of ELAM alumni and ELATE alumni is huge. Being aware of the types of leaders who have completed the programs and what kind of challenges they are facing can enhance skill development for future leaders. The continued enhancement and deepening of our network is also important.
One fantastic thing they did last year is they allowed women who were graduates of both ELAM and ELATE to interact with leaders—women and men—from a variety of disciplines so we could see our challenges in a broader context and realize that they are not unique. They are across the board disciplines and professions, and we can learn from the experiences and strategies of people who have gone through them.
Lastly, there is value in teaching leaders to cultivate. Personal refreshment is one thing, but continuing to nurture our hope and our optimism is extraordinarily important because we know how common burnout is, particularly in health professions. There are many common challenges that leaders face, so it’s important to give them the necessary skills so leaders can continue to be effective in their current roles, and just as importantly, so that they can continue to be more effective in mentoring the next generation and promoting inclusion and equity in their institutions.
How can ELUMs give back to the ELAM program?
There are so many ways we can give back. We can advocate for the program. We can get involved as advisors or learning community mentors. We can get involved in panels. We can, frankly, give to the foundation. Everybody can give back, and I think the commitment to the health of the organization and the ongoing sustenance in support of alumni is really important.
What advice would you give to recent ELUMs or future fellows?
I would tell them to stay involved. Think about your ELAM community as an opportunity not only for you to give back, but for you to continue to receive. Continue to broaden your network of colleagues within the ELAM program. Whether you have a formal coaching need or whether you have a project or whether you’re simply trying to solve a problem, there’s often expertise within the ELAM community that is readily available. You only have to ask.
How do you personally stay connected to the ELAM program?
I have had the great privilege of sponsoring women from my institution and serving in a mentor role at an institutional level. I have had the opportunity to be involved with the admissions committee and the alumni advisory committee. I was also asked to be a learning community mentor a couple of times in the past, but as life would have it, I had commitments that made that impossible. I think that continuing to nurture alumni at my institution while continuing to be connected and offering my assistance and support to the ELAM leaders are ways that I can continue to be involved.
What’s it like to come back and speak at an event like graduation?
It’s exciting. It’s humbling. It’s an honor. The fellows are extraordinarily talented women. All of the deans and the designees are obviously very accomplished, so it’s very humbling to be asked to speak and to share from my experience. My goal is to inspire, to hopefully use some humor and to encourage the women to continue to see this as the next step as they write their own narrative for their leadership journey in their accomplishments.
How has ELAM affected your career?
It’s had far-reaching effects, probably more than I might have anticipated. I was in the ELAM fellow class of 2007. At that point, I had been at my institution for about 17 years and I had achieved rank of professor. I was happy where I was and who I was working with. There weren’t a lot of additional opportunities for me to grow, but I’m not convinced I was really looking for those opportunities. I was fortunate that one of the women in my fellow class nominated me for a position that I subsequently was selected for, and it created a space for me to think about what else could be out there for me and that maybe it’s reasonable for me to consider those things, even though I was very happy where I was. That was one of the big lessons: You don’t need to be unhappy to consider other opportunities that align with your interests and your values and your passions. That was really helpful for me.
I’ve stayed connected with the community, and I’ve benefited from ongoing participation and encouraging and supporting current fellows, not only from my institution, but from other institutions as well. I think once you make one move from a comfort zone to a new institution, it certainly lowers the threshold of perceived risk. It opened my thinking and created space for me to apply lots of learnings, and it allowed me to continue to embrace with humility both the desire and the need to continue to grow as a person and as a leader in order to be not only maximally effective, but also to maintain that joy and optimism.