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Emerging Leaders set the agenda for next generation

Date Visible: 
04/20/2022 - 3:15pm

Media contact: Eric Olsen, 734-764-2220 |  Patients may contact Cancer AnswerLine, 800-865-1125

silhouettes of men and women around a gear

In 2020, the Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) was formed by the Rogel Cancer Center Senior Leadership Committee (SLC) with a mission to develop and support the next generation of Rogel leaders. The council first convened in April 2021.

The council is comprised of 15 early career faculty members interested in taking a larger role in the cancer center. Candidates are selected by the SLC and serve 3-year terms. The council is led by a chair, and two co-chairs elected by the ELC members to serve one-year terms.

"The chair and co-chairs are able to meet with Rogel leadership and gain a better understanding of how things work in the cancer center," says current chair Alison Mondul, M.D., M.S.P.H. "The term is limited to one year essentially to allow more members to rotate through the positions and have this opportunity." Current co-chairs are Christine Veenstra, M.D., M.S.H.P., and Aaron Udager, M.D., Ph.D.

ELC Elections were recently held, and the next chair will be Paul Swiecicki, M.D., with co-chairs Simpa Salami, M.D., M.P.H., and Qing Li, M.D., Ph.D.

The ELC was created, in part, to give early and mid-career faculty an opportunity to interact with cancer center leadership and to gain a more thorough understanding of the Rogel Cancer Center's mission, vision, and strategies.

"We were left with a bit of an open charge," says Mondul. "We're the first group and they basically said broadly ‘We want to provide you guys with a deeper understanding of how the cancer center works. And we want to provide you with some leadership training.’"

Mondul says the goal is twofold. First, to train and integrate potential future leaders for the cancer center. Second, to provide hands-on leadership experience. "They want to make sure we're prepared, and not simply dropped in without the right tools."

The ELC has had a busy inaugural year. Since the group first met last spring, they’ve:

  • Invited Rogel associate directors to speak to the ELC and share details about what their positions entail.
  • Read and provided strategic feedback on chapters of the core grant.
  • Integrated ELC leadership into Executive Committee and track leadership meetings.
  • Appointed ELC members to other committees, including Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ).
  • Identified four major areas of concern to early career members:
    • Website
    • Mentoring
    • Funding
    • Clinical faculty issues

To address these more efficiently, Mondul and the co-chairs leveraged an approach they’d seen work well in other arenas. "We created action committees," she says. "Rather than try to address everything with the entire ELC, each committee is focused on a specific issue. This allows progress to be made along parallel tracks."

The team is working on developing new funding opportunities for Rogel members in addition to the current sources, as well as more robust resources on the Rogel website. Both projects are currently in preliminary stages of discussion.

An area that has seen quite a bit of activity is clinical faculty issues. "We surveyed all of the clinical faculty within the cancer center," says co-chair Christine Veenstra. "We wanted to hear from a wide variety of clinical faculty about the issues they’re facing, to try to understand what’s working well and what could use improvement."

She goes on to say, "We’ve had some very robust responses, actually. We’re in the process of going through them all and distilling them down into some key themes." Veenstra and the team will then present these to Rogel leadership and work with them to develop action items. "Our goal is to ensure that everyone has the resources they need to provide excellent patient care."

Finally, the ELC is looking at the mentorship process at Rogel, and how it might be improved. "Mentoring now happens in a very organic manner," says Mondul. "And we’d like to be able to provide mentoring in a more structured way to help people better navigate the cancer center. We’re looking at a variety of forms this might take and trying to determine what kinds of mentorships can provide the best resources and support. Our goal is to help people access and apply the institutional knowledge at the cancer center."

When asked about their hopes for the future in the ELC, Mondul and Veenstra identified some key areas they’d like to see going forward:

  • To be able to offer more formal leadership training to ELC members.
  • To maintain continuity for ongoing initiatives.
  • To build and maintain connections between early and mid-career faculty with Rogel Cancer Center leadership.

Now that her term as chair is nearly complete, Mondul reflected on the experience. "It’s a really good opportunity," she says. "I’ve learned a lot about how the cancer center is organized, how it works, what it offers, and how it builds on the various departments. It’s very helpful to know what leadership is concerned about, what they’re interested in and what their goals are. For early career faculty be able to see that, to peek behind the curtain, is such an advantage."