Ten months into being Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and I have lost count of the number of times that people have asked me: “How is it going?”

A new role or job is a journey, so I find myself drawn to travel analogies. I used to be terrified of flying, something about handing over control to someone else who I couldn’t look in the eye to make sure they felt like they would do a good job. We all know that statistically it is more dangerous driving to the airport than flying, but that rational thought didn’t go any way to suppressing a racing pulse and sweaty palms during take-off and every time the engine changed pitch or the plane banked.

But you get used to things and I now find I look forward to getting onto a long-haul flight when nobody can send me emails or phone me up for several hours! So, the steep learning curve is slightly levelling and may perhaps level more in the new academic year when I have done many things once at least.

Working with the Faculty Leadership Team and everyone who has contributed to delivering the business of the Faculty has been a real pleasure – the “crew” are decidedly competent. Working with the University Executive Board and learning so much more about the wider University has been a big part of the steep learning curve, interesting and rewarding although, without wishing to labour the transport analogy too much, rather like sailing a ship in a storm (with the storm being the external environment) but again everyone contributing a wealth of experience and all focused very clearly on ensuring the ship weathers the storm and emerges in the best possible shape when times are less turbulent. 

What have we achieved as a Faculty so far this year? Our long-term aim is to shape a faculty of medicine that will contribute education and research of a quality, commensurate with the best in the country. Much of the activity this year has been focused on sustainability without loss of quality for our research and teaching. At our initial away days last September, we started several pieces of work, some still in progress. We reviewed and refreshed our research strategy (John Holloway’s blog covered this), many of you will have met Clare Taylor (Head of Faculty Finance) who has worked with her team to review all aspects of our budget and introduce a transparent approach to business planning across the faculty including for example in all our business and trading units. We have developed plans to better support and reward our staff in the Faculty; we continue to offer staff wellbeing sessions, we reviewed and clarified the promotions matrix for medicine and will be testing a more consistent approach starting with level 7 in the Autumn term. We have introduced two new reward and recognition schemes and progressed the concept for Faculty of Medicine estate development through concept to the business planning phase. The Estates Planning Advisory Group have been gathering monthly since January to collect the data that will inform a formal business case. We hope this will be ready for presentation in September in time for the new Vice Chancellor. Once the high level plan is through the next gateway, this can be shared more widely.

So, how is it going? Most days there are many more reasons to be optimistic than otherwise. I feel fortunate to work with so many talented colleagues (in all job families). There are changes and challenges that affect everyone and often cause annoyance, particularly when time is tight. This can be deeply frustrating yet still we give our students a great education, many will graduate later this month and I look forward to being able to congratulate each of our students in person. Getting grant applications costed, signed off and submitted often causes anxiety – yet thanks to everyone’s hard work, perseverance and support, we are back on target for grant submissions so well done everyone, keep up the good work.

Please make sure you leave plenty of time to plan your campaign including who you might need to help. Whatever support you need it is likely to be available but the providers of support need to plan because you won’t be the only person with a deadline. The problems with systems and functionality and staffing shortages are not being ignored and I am confident will improve as new ways of working settle in. Meantime, please recognise the contributions of those around you who are doing their best to help and take the time to thank people for their efforts – it goes a long way in making the workplace more pleasant.

Finally, I would like to thank Rob Read (Head of CES) and Salim Khakoo (Associate Dean for Enterprise) and Marcus Parry (Head of MedEd) who will stand down from these roles at the end of July. We are in the process of appointing their successors currently and we will confirm appointments for Head of CES and Associate Dean for Enterprise very soon. Medical Education will join Primary Care and Population Science from 1st August and we will be advertising the Deputy Head of School role in the near future.

The academic year is coming to an end and the summer seems to finally be here. The last 10 months have been challenging and rewarding but one thing is true, I am looking forward to the months and years ahead in this Faculty.

“So, hows it going?” by Professor Diana Eccles

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