Ep 47: The Dean of Medical Twitter

with Vineet Arora, M.D.

September 22, 2021


Share Episode
Share on email
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on facebook


Vineet Arora, M.D.
Dean for Medical Education, The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP, is an academic hospitalist who specializes in improving the learning environment for medical trainees and the quality, safety and experience of care delivered to hospitalized adults. She is an internationally recognized expert on patient handoffs in healthcare and also has extensive expertise using technology such as social media to improve the workplace learning in teaching hospitals on a variety of topics. Her educational videos on handoffs, supervision, professionalism and costs of care have been used by numerous educators around the country and have been featured on NPR and in the New York Times.


As a mentor and a teacher, the thing that I love most about research is mentoring. It's about growing somebody to become that independent thinker in research.



Sanjula Jain  0:03  

Women make up 70% of the healthcare workforce but only 20% of its leadership. On Her Story, we’ll explore the careers of bold and influential women from Silicon Valley to Capitol Hill and learn how they’ve overcome the odds. I’m your host, Sanjula Jain and this is Her Story, a program where we explore what’s beyond the glass ceiling.


It’s my pleasure to welcome Dr. Vineet Arora who’s the newly appointed Dean for Medical Education at The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Vineet, thanks for joining us.


Vinny Arora  0:38  

It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.


Sanjula Jain  0:41  

It’s great to have you back as part of this Her Story series. You were one of our first guests in season one. It’s great to follow up with you on this most recent announcement of your newly appointed role, which we’re excited to dig into. I know one of the things you talked a lot about in your first interview was your origins in medicine and the path turned out from chief resident to now Dean, and we’ll talk about that in a second. Tell us a little bit about where the passion for medicine came from. I know it’s highly personal to you.


Vinny Arora  1:11  

Everybody has a different calling for medicine and the calling is very important right now, especially in the pandemic, because you don’t enter these jobs. Because of the money only or because of fame or prestige. Usually, we’ve seen that you have to have this intrinsic calling. And for me, that started with my family. My brother has Spina Bifida. I grew up on the other side of the doctor-patient relationship as the caregiver and then the family member. And so growing up as a child of immigrants who were not doctors and realizing that there was something missing, they, whenever they came home from a doctor’s appointment, there were so many questions, but the way they idolized doctors and that way doctors were so important to my brother’s health and welfare was also really impressive, particularly at times when he needed emergency care or needed life-saving care. Those were all things that inspired me growing up to think about this field because it was what I always was attracted to science and math and sort of STEM-oriented. This field had the opportunity to make a big impact on patient lives. That’s what really inspired me.


Sanjula Jain  2:27  

What’s really unique about your path is you’ve been pretty early on passionate about this area of medical education. Where did that interest come from?


Vinny Arora  2:39  

Starting with those early kitchen table conversations with my parents trying to understand what it is that the doctor said, you realize the power of education and the power of communication, particularly education really is, how do we communicate these very complex concepts? How do we train the doctors of the future? I would say that I got more interested in teaching. When I was at Johns Hopkins as an undergraduate I worked several jobs, one of which was being a tutor. I had that passion for simplifying concepts. And so how do we break it down and simplify it for other people? Interestingly, the other job that I had was raising money for the university. And so I’m leaning on both of those skills right now. And so you never know, the jobs that you hold, like those skills might come back to you to help you later. So I knew that I had that experience. And I really enjoyed tutoring. People thought I was good at it. So I thought, Okay, let me continue that. In medical school, I was probably fairly unusual because I held a job during medical school. It was a little bit more common at that time, but not common, but it was not unusual. I continued to tutor and I taught for the MCAT. I grew up with this idea of what can you do to make a difference and given that I did not come from a family of immense wealth, where I could help offset those personal expenses and medical school really did matter. Those things really, really mattered. So I took up a job teaching MCAT for pre-meds at WashU in St. Louis. So I kept going with that with the teaching. And then I realized when I got to residency, that there was a potential career out of this. I didn’t really know that going into residency, but then I saw mentors like my program director, Dr. Holly Humphrey, make a career out of teaching in medical education and that was very inspiring. I had not ever seen that before. I’d only been exposed to real research or clinical practice, so I started to learn more about that. That’s what inspired me to continue going down this path.


Sanjula Jain  5:01  

Wow, that’s fascinating. It’s fun to see some of that come full circle for you. We like to ask all of our guests how you think about your foray into healthcare leadership, which is a bit different from the early days of clinical practice exclusively. Your answer was quite interesting. You said it was low, but accidental from a publication point of view. But then in some ways, it was intentional. You have a great story about raising your hand for the chief resident role. Tell us a little bit about that entrance into leadership, and then more specifically, how you’ve thought about the most recent three to five years and this path to this new role that you’re on.


Vinny Arora  5:40  

I’m on a Facebook group of physicians, women leaders, and it’s interesting how accidental leadership does happen. What happens is, if you’re good at what you do, and you like everything, so I’m a generalist, and I invest a lot in what I do, and I like everything, those are the types of things that end up then being valued at the leadership level because you can relate to a lot of different things. As opposed to being a specialist, where I was really narrowly good at one thing, I sort of dabbled in a lot of different things. That was interesting in the sense that sometimes that’s not rewarded in academia, but it’s very valued in leadership. When I think about my own path, I certainly think about those early days as a chief resident, actually, my first leadership position ever was actually the president of our high school band. High school bands are made of musicians, and this was a marching band. So these personalities—fiefdoms, flutists, and clarinetists and trumpet, brass percussion—are very different personalities, but they all come together. And they produce great music together and great routines and amazing pride and create a community. And so I ended up being elected as president of the band, partly because I had volunteered to serve as a student government representative, and no one in the band wanted to do this, but I was sort of interested in it. I’ve always had an interest in policy and representation and advocacy. I thought, “Okay, well, this is my opportunity to understand how to make the school better.” Because I volunteered for that, I would give the report out because it was the second period, I’d give the report out to the student government. I feel that is why my band conductor was like you should run for president and I initially, I was like, that sounds odd, because usually, the President was the most talented musician, and I’ll be honest, I was not the most talented musician to play, I have to ask for that. And I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it, but I took lessons. It took hard work, but I was not naturally gifted. I had people from this band go on to major in music in college, and I stopped playing after I left high school. As a band president, you realize the need to appeal to everybody, take in everyone’s opinion, and make sure you are representing people’s needs and views and also getting great ideas, so I think about a lot of those things now. It sounds corny, but those were early experiences that really shaped who I am today. They don’t have anything to do with medical leadership and are really just emotional, emotional intelligence if you will. I think a lot about that. When I think about medical students and residents, we see a lot of people who’ve had team experiences, athletes do very well and become leaders because of those similar experiences. While I wasn’t athletically gifted or musically talented, I found an avenue for myself. That is an important thing to highlight and medicine, the career in medicine is very long. Burnout is the norm. You will burn out, you will have burnout. That is an occupational hazard of our profession. Should it be that way? It should end, but that’s something we need to be ready to reconcile. In the current environment, this is the case. I always say to the students and residents, “What are some of the things that really give you joy that I can keep talking about when we’re working together?” I remember working with one intern during Christmas one year who was very burned out early in my career, and he was really interested in preventive medicine. Of course, we were now his fourth inpatient month and dealing with all the ills of hospital care. And so I ended up saying, hey, let’s talk about preventive medicine. This new article came out and found out what allows people to continue their passion and allow them to continue going within as I know, that’s what leaders do. Leaders help people really grow. That was my experience early on, but also later as a research mentor. My path was a little bit circuitous because I did a lot of research. As a mentor and a teacher, I ended up realizing the thing I love most about research was mentoring, and what I love about mentoring is growing somebody to become that independent thinker and researcher. Those are all things I bring to the leadership table every day. I think about those things when I meet with a faculty member all the way to a pre-med student.


Sanjula Jain  10:30  

That’s so well said. One of the reasons we envisioned this special series is exactly that, to highlight these very unique backgrounds, both coming into medicine, but also what you can do being trained as a clinician. You don’t have to just have the traditional job that we think exists. Even in your current role, how do you think about exposing students to these different career paths within medicine? It could be patient frontlines patients, it could be the administrative leadership side, it could be in the media side. How do you think about that?


Vinny Arora  11:05  

We have a long way to go. That’s one of my passions because I think our medical education curriculum is fairly static. We languish on this. Let’s do multiple choice questions and high-stakes testing, then we’ll just immerse people into the wards and see what sticks. We could be doing a much, much better job with how we train our health professionals of the future. When particularly passionate about physicians, I would say that one of the things that we know, for physicians is many times they actually are serving on teams and serving as leaders of teams, or helping teams grow. And so a great example, what’s the teamwork competencies that they’re getting? How do we are some of the things that I know I went to public policy school and so I had some of this exposure to run a team and how do you manage diverse voices? Those are not typical things that are taught in medical school conflict management and negotiation. Those are the same things that women in medicine suffer from because we never learned those things. Back to your question about exposure, a lot of it is about coaching and mentorship and then deliberate exposure to well-functioning teams and practices that allow people to decide is this something that I want to be doing or not, at the same time, that it’s not a shadowing experience? When I think about shadowing, I think about high school students or college students, but for medical students, we really need to be thinking about them as adults. The pandemic has shown that the AMA issued a call for Health System Science impact challenge for medical students and residents, over 100 great ideas submitted of people in their organizations, medical students leading change, getting people, helping with literature reviews, offloading certain activities. I read a recent article about medical students helping with loneliness in the community by doing those calls telemedicine, a lot of our own medical students did man telemedicine lines. These are all early preclinical medical students, we dwell a lot in medicine on the scope of practice and supervision. But at the same time, I’m like, we’re not utilizing our medical students in a way that really respects that they are adult learners, and could be contributing to the health system. And so those are some of the things that we are hoping to do here now at Pritzker. And we just launched this new curriculum evolution process. And so we are evolving our curriculum to really try to keep pace with all the changes that have happened. And I’m very excited about the process and about the CO creation. We’ve invited our students and our faculty and our alumni and others to contribute to say, what ideas should we bring to the forefront? And do you want to help? We are in an opportunity, we have a huge opportunity. Another big area that we need to address is anti-racism issues, particularly given the issues that medical education was one of the areas that had the most barriers to entry, particularly for black physicians, and prevented good care for black patients. We need to reckon with that. We need to figure out how to make amends for the fact that the Flexner report closed all but two black medical schools in the United States. Those are some of the things I think about and lose sleep over on a daily basis. We must be thinking about those things, doing, and exposing our students and inspiring them to be part of the change


Sanjula Jain  14:39  

Your passion for this area is so evident. It’s really palpable, so thank you for all that you do. One of the unique things about you from my vantage point is not being a clinician. You are one of the first, in some ways, to take the national stage through social media and start voicing a lot of these issues and raising awareness and Educating both those in the medical community but goes beyond that. How do you view social media and some of those platforms as key to your mission as you’ve worked to permeate some of these long-standing traditions in medical education?


Vinny Arora  15:14  

Yeah, no, thank you. I started on Twitter in 2009 because I was curious. I have one of my really close friends from Johns Hopkins, my college roommate is in health IT and she was like, “You have so many great ideas, you’re doing all this great stuff, you should join Twitter.” I was like, “I don’t even know what Twitter is,” so I had a Twitter mentor, a mentor who helped me get on Twitter. And then all I did was work for a while because I was scared. I was like, “I don’t want to say anything.” In medicine, it’s heretical that you’re going to talk about your career on a platform like that in 2009. I was a junior at the time, I was still an assistant professor and I ended up just lurking for a while. I looked and I looked, I learned. I realized there was space because I remember seeing people mixing up confusing what students and residents were like, they would be like, oh, they’d refer to an article. And they’d be like, Oh, this medical student, but you when you read it, like a resident physician, or at that time, people were even now but yeah, that time duty hours and resident fatigue and sleep was a big issue. I had done a lot of research in the area. And people always had one viewer, the other like the public, but didn’t see both sides of the equation. And so I realized that there was a potential opportunity there to educate the public. So I actually, as a lot of people asked me Did I take to social media to educate my students or my residents? And I was like, No, because they’re unfortunately with me in person in the room, and I would never be like, “Oh, go get on Twitter and follow me. You’ll see what I said.” I realized there was this community of people who I would never have reached, who I can actually highlight some of the issues that we’re facing in medical education. I started tweeting about medical education under the handle “future docs” in 2009. I did not tell anybody in my organization, I was doing this, I did look at the policies, but like, I didn’t have it in my handle, if you found it to be because you were on Twitter. Okay, but you’re on Twitter, too. So that’s embarrassing for you as well. That was my philosophy: if you stumble upon me and find me and then try to catch my organization, I’ll be like, “What are you doing there?” So it’s interesting how my career has grown with Twitter because it was not accepted at the time, and then I and then it grew to become accepted. And then it’s grown to be vital. It’s been vital in a pandemic, but like with all things, it’s like real life. What was interesting about early Twitter is that early Twitter was this place where you could connect with people across great geographical distances as well as across professions to be like, “Oh, let me learn more about each other.” Right now, unfortunately, it’s become a little bit more of an echo chamber and it provides a different function. It probably provides a supporting function for students and residents, faculty, med. Twitter has taken on a life of its own. It’s not as easy now to connect with people in different spaces. I worry it’s become increasingly polarized. Certainly, there are costs for engaging. You can get attacked and harassed, and we’ve done research into that. If you’re a woman, it’s even worse. But at the same time, it’s an important component of our society. Social media is an extension of real life. All the bad things that happen in real life are now happening on social media. Unfortunately, you can’t protect that. That’s why, as long as our patients are there and our learners are there, we need to be there to engage and better understand. It is interesting in the sense that Twitter’s just one platform. There’s Instagram now, there’s Clubhouse, so many different others. Early Clubhouse now reminds me of early Twitter, but what will it become? Right now it’s very civil, usually a lot of connecting. I can walk into a room on Japanese anime and listen in and ask a question. I don’t know the battlefields will be so comfortable in the future, so it’s our job to really be good stewards. Think about that. A lot of our students and residents have to learn about this because social media is also an important extension of their professional identity, particularly in getting a job like on LinkedIn. Are you on LinkedIn? Are you connected with others? There are pros and cons with all these technologies, and we need to be teaching about them as well.


Sanjula Jain  19:38  

I love that you’ve created this movement around it because, to your point, it’s the world we live in now. There are many women out there who are experiencing a little bit of that hesitation of should I be putting my voice out there. Is it worth the additional time that’s meant to be? But it’s almost like, if you don’t exist there, you don’t exist professionally.


Vinny Arora  19:59  

My husband is not on Twitter, although he does lurk, which I learned recently to great chagrin. It is interesting in the sense that you can have a very successful vital career. For women in particular, there’s something about being on social media that allows for greater connection. Now, having said that, we did the study that showed that women physicians in particular don’t get as much bang for their buck in terms of external speaking opportunities and research collaboration. It’s a double-edged sword. Social media was marketed as this great leveler, the playing field for hierarchy in a way to help especially people advance. I have been part of saying that, that’s, that’s how I advanced, but at the same time, with all technologies and with that mimic real life, there is inherent bias. And so how do we counteract the bias, that’s the human element. These things are all very fascinating for me, things I have come to enjoy learning about, but also how to improve. Social media is also in my current job. It’s been an incredible outlet for me to learn because, when all of a sudden I have this title, people don’t tell me things there. It’s not like I have this great relationship with so many people. People get a little stiffer when I walk into a room. When I’m in the hospital, I’m gonna have my hospitalist and my former job. I routinely would round the workrooms. I was working as an associate Chief Medical Officer, so it was germane to be in the hospital doing things. And when I walk into the hospital now, people are like, “Oh, is everything okay?” As if I’m there to check on something. Unfortunately, as you get to become higher in leadership, you get further away from the frontline and the people that you’re trying to support. Social media gives me a little bit of that. What’s the pulse of what people nationally are thinking at that level? How does that impact me here in Chicago? How should I think about that when I’m preparing remarks or when I’m thinking about a policy or change that affects something that’s happening? Those are just some of the things I’m thinking about when I look at social media these days.


Sanjula Jain  22:20  

Wow. You mentioned that now in this new role, you’ve noticed a little bit of a shift there. You are now most people think about the first 90 days and when you roll you are, what about day 60? You’re right on that. What has been the most challenging part of taking on this new role and getting adjusted?


Vinny Arora  22:40  

The most challenging part of any new job is cadence and putting yourself in the mindset. Just even being here in this office, talking to you, having fixed up the office, it’s that mindset where it’s like, “Okay, this is my job.” I am the dean, people call me Dean Arora. I’m like, “Who are you talking about?” I still have that imposter syndrome and some distance because it’s so new. I remember being at a virtual meeting, and everyone had to introduce themselves. And I said, Well, I am the, and I paused Dean for medical education. It’s still true, not rolling off my tongue as well as it could. It’s really about your mental mindset and the cadence of your workday. What’s your workday look like? What’s the right cadence of meetings to be having with people, in a leadership job, you inherit a team, it’s unless you’re maybe you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re bringing your own team, which I’ve had that experience of creating a team. In this job, you’re inheriting a team. One of the things that happens when a new leader comes in is people get very nervous about their longevity, about their prospects, about their work, about their value, making sure they’re valued. That’s one of the things that has not been a challenge. I have really enjoyed having these conversations, but it certainly requires dedicated time and thought to cultivate the team, getting in that cadence. Help should be me meeting every week, every other week, is this the right time because it’s also an opportunity to revisit doing things differently. Some people on the team are ready to do things differently, other people might like the status quo. There are also many different functions of a team and an organization like this that’s trying to produce physicians. There’s a four-quadrant model. What are the things people are ready to turn around? Because they’re like, “We need to do things differently.” A lot of times I did this listening tour to understand where we have that capacity for change. And then where are we sustaining? Where are we successful? Are people nervous that programs are going to be defunded or not being thoughtful? Those are the things that I want to dispel and say, “Hey, these are important things that we want to highlight.” It’s sort of modeling the culture, supporting the people, and making sure that you yourself have wrapped your head around the role. Those are the three big challenges that I think of every day.


Sanjula Jain  25:19  

You mentioned there’s the mindset piece in a new role. I’m sure you get this all the time—and I see it on my site, too—where especially women say, whether it’s founding a company or taking on a new leadership role, it’s like, “I don’t know how to do that. I didn’t learn to do that. I wasn’t trained to do that so where do I start?” I haven’t checked the literature, but I don’t know that there are many books out there that are like how to be the Dean of medical education. You just figure it out. But I’m curious, like, mindset, OSI, whether it was more technical skills or just preparing for some of these things? Like, did you do anything for yourself in terms of bridging the learning knowledge for you or things that you read? Or people you talk to? What was that process? Like?


Vinny Arora  26:01  

Absolutely. Leadership is leadership is leadership. It doesn’t matter where that leadership is. I was the associate CMO at my prior job. I worked for somebody who I still work with today (he’s our chief medical officer) and I remember leaning on him a lot to say, “Tell me a little bit more about the platform that you have and how you approach your team.” I had a lot of opportunities to learn this directly because I was on his team. And so a lot of times you seek to emulate leaders that you respect. And so for me, that included my former mentors, people that I’d worked for, as well as external people that you admire from afar. I am very close with the CEO of the American College of Physicians, Darrell, and Dr. Carolyn Moyer, as well as the CEO of the Council of medical subspecialty societies. Dr. Khalid Burstyn, who’s another speaker at that women and medicine summit, these are women who I believe have really achieved so much, but also, they’ve done it in a way and in a style that I seek to emulate. And so in a collaborative way, that’s been very, very effective. And similarly, I thought about it. And one thing that my former boss told me was that, keep in mind that at the end of the day, your skillset and your expertise are one aspect. But your ability to lead is something that translates across leadership positions. That gave me a little bit of confidence to go forward. The other thing that gave me great confidence is asking for help because I have a great team. I also have a great network and I can ask for help. I can reach out to the dean for medical education at the University of Colorado, who happens to be an ID physician, and say, “What do you think about this COVID thing and students and etc?” I use those lifelines. I use them on a daily basis. And so don’t be afraid to ask for help. That is very important as a new leader because you’re not only asking for help within your team, you’re asking for help outside of your team, across your organization, but you’re also making new lifelines. And so interestingly, I went, even though I’m at the same organization, I went from working at the hospital to working in the university. Some of the people that have been most helpful to me in the first weeks of my job were university officials and university lawyers and the folks that really run the campus, the provost office. I had very little insight into what that office does and what they do other than, “Oh, you might get a call from Provost if something good happened or something bad happened.” I’ve come to have a deeper respect for those lifelines. That’s where having those first few days on the job mapping out my go-to people, not just on my team but outside of my team, because my team might have questions I cannot answer. You do not need to be the expert in everything. What you need to do is be the convener and be able to get to an answer that everybody supports, or provide the answer. Sometimes it’s an unpopular answer, but provide it in a way that everybody can support it. Can you get behind this? Those have been what guided me, and every day the challenge was something new. Every day I reach out to somebody new and say, “Hey, I’m new” and “Please help me.” Of course, that can feel very uncomfortable. That can feel very uncomfortable and disconcerting because, as a leader, you think I should have all the answers, but it’s like being an attending physician. You do not have all the answers for the patient. Sometimes the best answer is, “I don’t know. That’s a great question. Let me do some sleuthing and find the expert and get back to you.” That’s leadership, so that’s sometimes what we need to model.


Sanjula Jain  29:52  

That’s a really great perspective and really well said. Are you still practicing clinically?


Vinny Arora  29:58  

Yeah, I will be on service in October. I’m looking forward to it. Again, I’m looking for ways to maintain a presence in the clinical environment. I’m doing a lot of case conferences trying to get that cadence, right? So what’s that cadence and when I’m going to be at the resident report, or I’m going to run with the team for, I’m going to check in with our students. Having FaceTime with learners is critical in this job. My prior job was having face time with clinicians and so, so they’re very similar constituents, and sometimes overlapping, for example, in the case of residents, but I’m still figuring out that cadence. Maybe the next time we talk I’ll let you know. I will be interested to hear how that evolves. I’ve started to reach out to the chief presidents and others to sort of say, okay, how’s it going to work and, and, and so I’m gonna try it out. It’s very important that leaders, physician leaders particularly, maintain their clinical presentation, especially in jobs like this. And in our organization. In fact, the only person that does not have a clinical footprint who is a physician is actually the Dean of the entire Biological Sciences Division, so it’s pretty unique to not have a clinical footprint. I would aim to continue to do something.


Sanjula Jain  31:20  

Let’s take a step back then, in terms of the road to actually getting to the seat that you’re sitting in today. Less than about 18% of women or Dean’s of medical schools, then you can break that out further just generally about women represented in academic medicine leadership roles. What was the process like getting to this specific role? Was it something you interviewed for now you’ve been with you Chicago for quite some time? How did that play out?


Vinny Arora  31:51  

I’ve spent like 20 years here and assumed this job, 20 years to the day I finished residency here. So I and sometimes, that is overwhelming. It’s like aging in place. There’s a very different set of core competencies to survive and succeed in the same organization as to move to a different organization. When you move to a different organization, and I don’t have the experience of this, but seeing others, oftentimes, you get a little bit of that honeymoon period where you’re the new leader, and you can you’re in the learning mode, you’re new, you’re the shiny new person who’s calm that people want to meet. When you’re in the same organization, sometimes the hardest thing is that you are still doing your old job. And people don’t even see that you have a new job. And even though they know it’s like, well, of course, he’s going to continue to do this. And then the other thing is that you don’t necessarily get the honeymoon period, because you have this overlap. A lot of people who do leave actually will be, of course, it’s worse because you have to move your family and your your your, oftentimes you’re moving across the country, they will have that brief, I’ve stopped this job and I’m starting this job, I did not have that it was sort of like this overlap this that I was ramping down certain things and ramping up certain things in terms of the and so that’s a challenge. So I would say that’s definitely helped me get the mindset. But it also was overwhelming. It was an incredibly overwhelming period and the spring after it was announced because I sort of had started being pulled into it right away. The academic calendar starts before July 1, so I was welcoming new residents to the organization. And on the slide, I almost put the Dean for medical education because I’m not the dean for medical education. And I was like, Well, here, well, here we go. If you’re nervous, think about how I feel. It’s good to have that human quality to it so people understand you’re a work in progress. In terms of the job, they did an internal search for this position. And why did they do an internal search? likely because a job like this does require a lot of understanding of internal culture, but because we also were in the middle of an accreditation cycle and a lot of other things. Sometimes with external searches, there’s a high risk for failure and postponement and they really needed somebody to go with the beginning of the academic calendar. And especially with the pandemic, it was vital that somebody was put in place. The interesting thing about internal search is that you’re up against your colleagues, so for this position they did broad nominations. It was like 40 people who got nominated. I don’t know the exact stats, but there are people in our organization who I don’t know everything was kept very tightly sealed, that I’ve interviewed for this position, who then received that note that I am now the leader and that they’ve either potentially working on my team or are looking to have a role here. I’ve been gifted with an incredible culture where that has been allowed to happen and It’s been very well received. I don’t feel any ill will from that process, because the search was handled so professionally. And so whatever you do, it’s more than having a rigorous process. I have participated in external searches. And I have externally looked at things before, where I have not gotten the job. I’ve also been in an internal search here where I didn’t get the job. So I also have had the experience of going up for something not getting it, and then being part of a team and working with somebody else in that role. And I will say that from above all else, the transparency is what matters most is that you had an opportunity. By listing the position, what you don’t want—especially for women—is for this to become a networking game where it’s like, “Who do you think should get this job? Okay, let’s talk to them.” You want it to be an even playing field where everyone has an opportunity to weigh in and throw their hat in the ring. Above all, transparency is vital, so we’ve adopted that model to actually do two Faculty Director searches that are underway right now. We have amazing candidates. I don’t know who’s going to be the person who is in these roles, but I’m excited about the search. Most of all, I’m excited that everybody who has interviewed had the opportunity to throw their hat in the ring because they will be better for it regardless. And I would say even for the job I didn’t get I was better at interviewing, I was a better leader because I had had the opportunity to interview for the job.


Sanjula Jain  36:33  

As far as throwing your hat in the ring, that’s one thing I don’t want to gloss over. In your last interview, what resonated so clearly was this idea that you raised your hand and said, “Pick me.” That’s not easy to do. Everything you’re talking about from finding your voice on social media and trying to encourage more women, in particular, to step forward, but just physicians generally, when the search was announced, did you intentionally put your name in the hat there? Or were you nominated? Or I’m sure it was a combination of the two, but just to stress the emphasis of, I presume, you put yourself in the running there.


Vinny Arora  37:11  

Yeah, no, it was a combination of the two. I received a note that said I was dominated, which was incredibly humbling. Then I had to think about it because I was a tenure chair professor. I didn’t have a bad gig, if you will. I was doing well. In some ways, when you’re doing well is the best time to think about a career change, as opposed to when you’re not doing well. When you’re not doing well, your mindset is clouded by that and you might make decisions that are rash because you’re like, “I need to get out of this current position.” I know that’s happened to some people. Part of me thinks, “Would I have been okay if I didn’t throw my hat in the ring?” I don’t know the answer to that, but I did it because I was excited by the opportunity, not because I didn’t like what I was doing, so that is very important. First of all, if you find yourself in a position where you don’t like what you’re doing, you have to change that. And there are many ways to think about changing that. Interviewing for a position that’s not right for you, or taking a position that you don’t think is going to be a good fit for you. That’s not the right answer. I was in the moment. I had a moment where I could think, “Do I want to put my hat in the ring?” I could meet with people, mentors, and leaders and say, “Should I put my hat in the ring?” and get those opinions. I was fortunate in the sense that I’ve had a lot of experience with research and with publishing and with mentoring, that I sort of felt that I was coming to a natural chapter and if you will, and that I have a job like this I view as you want to make an impact. It’s not like you’re going to make an impact. Like in a week, you’re going to make an impact over years, and possibly over a decade, five to 10 years, and hopefully help you lucky. And and and so that was why I thought about this job because I thought, well, if I’m ever going to have that impact, to really have a platform and really change the way we train future physicians and in a positive way to align better with the needs of our nation and our health system than our communities. This was it and it was the right time for me now with these 10 years and so that was kind of what I was thinking.


Sanjula Jain  39:37  

That distinction is really helpful. This has been such an empowering interview. I have so many more questions to ask but for the sake of time I’ll probably wrap this up with one or two more. You have accomplished so much and have yet so much more to accomplish and we’re all excited to track your career but you also wear many hats. You’re the newest head of Dean and you have a beautiful family. You’re a mom. What advice do you have for other young women physicians who are juggling the unpredictable nature of the clinical profession and a family?


Vinny Arora  40:12  

My daughter is starting school in a few days, my son is 16 months, and so when I took this job, I knew my number one concern was for them. Will I have enough time for them? My advice to others is that if you see yourself as a leader, and going down this path, you will need a team. And you will need a team at work, and you will need a team at home. I am not the mother of the year. I am part of an amazing team that provides support for my family and my children. And I had to get more support for my team at home. I’m not ashamed to say that. Am I the one who’s going to always be there for my children at five o’clock? No. I have five o’clock meetings here. As physicians, especially physicians, and procedural areas, and even clinics, we all know how late clinic goes, women physicians know that. But as a leader, you can set some boundaries. And so the exciting thing about being a leader is you can create a culture that supports other women. A great example is our staff. Our campus staff is coming back from switching to more in-person work arrangements after September 8, but we had an opportunity for everyone to write in their needs. If anyone wanted alternative work arrangements, they could ask for them. As a leader, I wanted to be inclusive and say, “We understand everyone has different needs.” It’s not like the pandemic is over and everything is okay. People with small children, especially those who are unvaccinated, are very vulnerable, especially those that are in jobs that are at the highest echelon of pay grade where they can support a nanny and caregivers as I can. And so we as a school have adopted a policy of alternative work arrangements for our staff to help support them. And so, so again, every The idea is that of course, we’re here we’re in person, we’re supporting our students and our learners, but we have to have some flexibility to allow for people to be part of our workforce, otherwise, we will not model the same Diversity, Equity and Inclusion principles that we wish to recruit for. That’s the trade-off. Yes, I have 5 pm meetings, and yes, I have evening things and I have long days, but the trade-off is, as a leader, sometimes I can set the agenda and the boundaries around those. And I also can use some of the incentives I received to help bolster my team at home. I will say I have two teams that you met at home that makes this job possible. I have to give huge credit to my husband and me and my kids. They rise to the occasion, as well as everyone who takes care of them.


Sanjula Jain  43:14  

Wow. That’s great advice, and thank you for all that you do. We’re excited to see how the new school year goes. Hopefully, you’ll join us back maybe in a year to reflect, but congratulations again on the new role. I know it’s not easy starting it off in the middle of a pandemic, but you’re off to a great start.


Vinny Arora  43:33  

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here again.


Sanjula Jain  43:38  

Her Story is a podcast produced by Think Medium. For more leadership stories from inspiring women across healthcare, tune in every Wednesday. Please subscribe to Her Story on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever you’re listening right now. You can also view Her Story episodes and video and access exclusive content on our website at ThinkMedium.com. Be sure to rate and review Her Story so we can continue bringing you insights from influential women across the country. If you enjoyed this episode, we appreciate you spreading the word to your friends, family, colleagues, and mentors who might be interested. For questions and suggestions, please contact us at herstory@thinkmedium.com. Thanks for listening!

Subscribe for Updates​

For exclusive access to Think Medium content and program updates, subscribe here.