Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On Becoming a Harvard Professor

Almost 15 years ago on June 15, 1996, I moved from California to Massachusetts.   I began practicing Emergency Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.   On that day, I wrote in my journal:

"Today I've started work at one of the best hospitals in the country.  I'm surrounded by smart people, amazing technology, and incredible possibilities.   What am I, who am I, what will I be?   I'm an instructor and the path to Harvard Professor seems insurmountable."

Today, I joined several friends and colleagues to celebrate my becoming a Harvard Professor.

Along the journey, I've learned many lessons.   Professorship is not about fame, fortune,  or what I know.  It's about community.   Early in my Harvard career, Dr. Tom Delbanco, Sam Fleming, Warren McFarlan, Marvin Schorr,  and others advised me to focus on creating teams of smart people to change the world.     From my discussion with Deans and faculty, here are the top 5 roles of a Harvard Professor:

*Training the next generation -  I have 20 years left in my career.  Now is the right time to develop the next generation of informatics and IT leaders by sharing my experience and giving them an opportunity to thrive.  I'll do my best to inspire and mentor students, residents, fellows and junior faculty by always being available to them.

*Communicating ideas - publishing, lecturing, meeting, blogging, and serving on expert panels ensures that ideas and innovation are widely disseminated.   Today's blog is my 900th post, creating  a permanent record of the key ideas I encounter in my life as a healthcare CIO.

*Serving as role model - a strong sense of ethics and equanimity, always being moral and fair in every conversation and relationship, fosters an environment that encourages people to excel.

*Building teams - assembling and resourcing the best people, especially those with differing opinions and experiences, leads to innovation.

*Creating an ideal work and learning environment - accepting accountability for resolving personnel conflicts, budget shortfalls, strategic ambiguity, political barriers, and impediments to the free exchange of ideas empowers teams to succeed.

So now the next phase of my career begins.  I feel humbled by the responsibility and will do my best to train, communicate, serve, build, and create!


DrYang@Blogger said...

Congratulations from Taiwan! As a faithful reader of your blog, I do believe that you already have the wisdom to render the golden age of the medical environment in a digital way!

Corvin said...

Congratulations! And many thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

Carlos Leyva said...

Congrats! Your real world experience in the trenches will no doubt be highly valued by your students. We need people of your caliber teaching the next generation. These are exciting times for health care in the U.S. but the challenges remain daunting. We need the next generation of the "best and brightest" to help take the industry to better outcomes and reduced costs.

Gil Press said...

Congratulations! You have already accomplished a lot for all five roles (and more) in your pre-professor days.

Ken Huling said...

Congratulations, Dr. Halamka! From the WeberLabs team!

GreenLeaves said...

Congratulations John! Many will will benefit from your wide-ranging inquisitiveness and knowledge.

Have fun and continue communicating.

Melanie Ensign said...

Congratulations! Looking forward to even more wisdom from you on putting these ideas into action. Well-deserved - best of luck!

J.D. said...

Congrats! You so clearly deserve it. Perhaps if becoming a professor was a little more about how effectively you share your knowledge and wisdom, and a little less about what journal you were published in, the world would be a slightly better place.

Lava Kafle said...

Thats an wonderful pursuit in life, A dream of everyone born in this universe fulfilled!!!

geekgoalie said...


Bush here said...

John Congratulations.
You are very valuable to us as a blogger. We who have no opportunity to interact with people of Harvard and their type are grateful that you have shared your personal and professional life with your readers. You make an effort to live life to the fullest and not always by spending more money or resources.
Thanks for sharing your life with us.Professor ,i hope you continue to share your life and make us more aware of things we take for granted.
I pray that we always can admire dignity of humans at every level. when you honor that dignity it makes us all very strong.

Peter Bachman said...

"Sustained national, and in many cases international, reputation as a leader and innovator"..check! Kudos

Deborah said...

Yes, congratulations! Best wishes for personal and professional fulfullment. Hope you will continue to post and share with the "Blogosphere"

drscarlat said...

Congratulations John !
I am thankful for your generosity: sharing your wisdom, knowledge and experience with others has been one of your many great characteristics. Good luck and best wishes my friend.

Unknown said...

Congratulations, John. I've become quite a fan of your blog, not so much for the health IT stuff (not that there's anything wrong with it!) but for the light it shines on you as a person. There's a literary quality to your reflections coupled with a willingness to reveal personal things now and again, which make for good writing and good reading.
So don't let that fancy professorship change you!

Steven Locke, MD said...

Thanks, John, for your leadership and friendship. Your teaching in our HST course, Enabling Technology Innovation in Healthcare and the Life Sciences, has manifested your commitment to training the next generation of healthcare leaders. The students and faculty have enjoyed and valued your participation and support.
(And you already know I enjoy your blog.)
Congratulations, John.

Anonymous said...

I found this post very inspiring. Your family must be so proud of you. I'm sure there were some sacrifices you had to make in order to get to where you are at now, but it looks like it was all worth it.

What I am most impressed with is the attitude and foresight to mentor the next generation, and to strive for a way of making the world a better place.

I loved this line-

"Along the journey, I've learned many lessons. Professorship is not about fame, fortune, or what I know. It's about community".

There are plenty of intellectuals, and people with prestigious titles in the medical profession that are so arrogant, and full of themselves. They disregard the bigger picture. At the end of ones life, validation will not come from how smart you were, how much money you made, or if you were famous. What matters will always be people- the relationships we fostered while we were here on earth, and what we did with the gifts/talents we were given.

Congratulations to you, and best wishes in your future career endeavor.

Bob Kaplan said...

Way to go, John. It is great when nice things happen to good people.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who are not familiar with the Harvard Medical School system, becoming a full professor is a near impossible task. I believe John is the second Emergency medicine physician in the Harvard systme to achieve this goal. I wish you the best on this great accomplishment.

Mike Muin said...

Thank you for this post!

You don't how this post helped clarify some of the challenges I face in my work.

Congratulations and thanks!