August 12, 2019

Junior Faculty Exchange Program Reflection: Plastic Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dr. Sears reflects on her experience participating in the Junior Faculty Exchange Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The Michigan Promise Blog
Visual Abstract for Junior Faculty Exchange Program Reflection by Dr. Sears

Junior Faculty Exchange Program

It has now been two years since the Michigan Medicine Department of Surgery began the Junior Faculty Exchange Program. The program facilitates an assistant professor from the University of Michigan and another participating program to visit one another’s institution to pursue the following four goals:

  • Increase national visibility of our early career faculty
  • Allow early career faculty to network and establish inter-institutional collaborations
  • Develop/observe new operative techniques, skills or interests
  • Increase the exposure of our trainees to faculty from a diverse array of institutions

Since it’s inception, multiple early-career faculty have taken advantage of this unique opportunity. The program has continued to grow and now includes 11 participating institutions (MGH, Brigham and Women's, Florida, Dartmouth, Duke, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, and the University of Alabama – Birmingham).

Grand Rounds Presentations

This academic year was my first experience participating in the Junior Faculty Exchange program and also my very first visiting professor opportunity. I had the honor of being the inaugural faculty member to visit the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Surgery—where earlier in the year our institution had the pleasure of hosting UAB faculty and colorectal surgeon Daniel Chu. As part of my visit, I was the Department of Surgery Grand Rounds speaker, where I presented the vision behind my research and current VA Career Development Award titled—The Pre-surgical Episode: An Untapped Opportunity to Improve Value. Through my research, I hope to measure and improve our ability to improve value in delivery of surgical care, in particular in the continuum of care that patients experience between first presenting with a potential surgical problem and the subsequent care they experience up to the time of surgery, which is largely ignored in efforts to improve care coordination and value. My grand rounds talk gave me the opportunity to obtain a fresh perspective and feedback among faculty from a leading academic surgery program on the broad applicability of my research.

In addition to presenting my research, I had the opportunity to give a clinical talk to faculty and trainees at the Division of Plastic Surgery Grand Rounds titled—Digit Replantation: Evolution and Contemporary Debates. The practice of performing finger replantation has evolved over the past 50 years since the technique was first successfully performed with varying perspectives globally and throughout the United States on practice patterns and indications for performing the procedure. Research and clinical questions have changed from when can we perform replantation to now asking when should we perform the procedure to optimize the best long-term patient outcomes. When I was a trainee, I thoroughly enjoyed learning from the diverse perspectives of visiting professors relative to what I learned from faculty in my own training program. I was thankful to have the opportunity to teach their plastic surgery resident my perspectives based on my clinical expertise and research surrounding finger replantation.


Lastly, as part of my UAB visit, I met with numerous faculty to exchange research ideas and identify potential research collaborators, not only relevant to my own work, but that may also be helpful in their respective research careers as well. I made new connections among their plastic surgery faculty, where we discussed ideas for future research collaboration. One of the highlights of the trip was my ability to meet with visionary and prominent leaders in UAB’s Surgery Department—Chair, Herbert Chen; Dean of the Medical School, Selwyn Vickers, and Chair Emeritus, Kirby Bland. I had the opportunity to learn about their career paths to their eventual roles in leading future generations of students, residents, and faculty. The Junior Faculty Exchange visit was the highlight of my 2018-2019 academic year. These meetings and my entire visit to UAB were a fruitful learning opportunity as I reflect on own career path and how I will position myself to impact surgery more broadly in the future.

Article by Erika D. Sears, MD, MS (Twitter: @ErikaDSears)

Dr. Sears

Erika D. Sears, MD, MS

Associate Professor, Plastic Surgery & Orthopaedic Surgery
Associate Program Director, Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency Program

Contact Us

Reach out to join the conversation or to learn more about how to implement the Michigan Promise. Connect with the Department of Surgery or our faculty on Twitter to share your ideas or get in touch with the Office of Faculty & Resident Life to schedule a Michigan Promise presentation at your institution. You can also fill out our Michigan Promise Inquiry Form with any questions or comments.

Department of Surgery
2210F Taubman Center
1500 E. Medical Center Dr.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Phone: 734-232-5528


Twitter: @UMichSurgery

Hashtag: #MichiganPromise

Related Media: