Authorship and Academic Careers in the Navy

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I recently gave a talk to the Emergency Medicine residents at NMC Portsmouth about authorship and academic careers in the Navy. Here is the outline of the talk and some tips…

Academic Career Options

There are a number of options for those who are interested in establishing an academic career in Navy Medicine. Here are the ones I know of:

  • Residency programs at a medical center – Serving as teaching faculty at a residency program at Walter Reed, San Diego, or Portsmouth.
  • Family Medicine (FM) teaching hospitals – Serving as faculty at the FM residency programs in Ft. Belvoir, Lejeune, Camp Pendleton, and Jacksonville. This opportunity is not just for FM physicians, but for Internists, Pediatricians, subspecialists, etc. as the FM programs need all of those people to support the education of their residents.
  • Japanese internships – Both Yokosuka and Okinawa have internships that are structured like Transitional Internships and allow Japanese physicians to learn how American medicine is conducted. Most graduates try to obtain letters of recommendation and apply for graduate medical education (GME) in the US. Taking a leadership role in these programs can prepare you to lead GME programs when you PCS back to the US.
  • Transitional internship programs – Leadership opportunities in Transitional Internships are open to just about every specialty, and many physicians have used Transitional Internship Program Director as the stepping stone to O6.
  • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) billets – Many specialties have billets at USUHS that allow you to take a leadership role in the departments and teach medical students.

Authorship Options

The opportunities to publish have increased dramatically during my 18.5 year career. For example, you’re reading this blog and that didn’t exist when I started. Here are the opportunities to publish that currently exist with some tips listed after each:

  • Apps – This is the only thing on this list I haven’t tried, but there are articles that explain how to do it and tell stories of physicians who made money doing it.
  • Blogs – This isn’t hard to do, so there’s nothing but time and effort preventing you from putting your opinion out there for others to read. Don’t underestimate how much time this takes, though, so know what you are getting into. I have literally spent thousands of hours on this blog.
  • Books and book chapters – I’ve published 4 books (you can see 3 of them on Amazon here) by working with my specialty society, so that is one opportunity to pursue when it comes to books. The easiest way to start writing books chapters is to find someone you know that is senior to you who already writes chapters and offer to be a co-author for the next edition. If you go to your department head/chair or residency director, they should be able to tell you who writes book chapters in the department.
  • Case reports – This is the entry path to publishing and where I made most of my initial academic bones. Frankly, publishing case reports gotten me a lot of my academic reputation, fitrep impact in block 41, and subsequent promotion to O4 and O5. Nowadays, there are a lot of journals and it is easier than ever to get something accepted, especially if you are open to publishing cases on blogs or in newsletters.
  • Humanities – Many journals regularly publish 1-2 page articles about the experience of being a physician, ethics, military medicine, and other related topics. A common way to get one of these published would be to deploy and then write a humanities piece while deployed or upon returning about your experience.
  • Newsletters – I wrote a personal finance column in one of our specialty society newsletters for 7 years. If you can get a regular gig like this, it will force you to write on a regular basis and really build your CV and academic reputation. Every specialty has newsletters and “throw away” journals that arrive in the mail. Contact the editors, offer to write something, and see if this is something you enjoy.
  • Podcasts – Similar to blogs, this is fairly easy to do with some free software (Audacity), a $50 USB microphone headset, a podcast host (I host on this blog’s WordPress site but here are other hosts out there), and the time to figure out how to post your content on the Apple store. Like blogging, it is very time consuming. Personally, it is not my favorite thing to do (which is why my podcast has lagged way behind) because I have zero interest in learning how to properly edit recordings, but there is nothing preventing you from getting your voice out there.
  • Research manuscripts – If you want to do research, you should start with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) that your command is subject to. There will be resources available to help you, but in my experience it is a pull system (you have to inquire and go get them) and they are not pushed to you. Typically, you’ll find grant writers, statisticians, and sources of money to do research. You’ll also find additional military rules and regulations heaped on top of all of the already existing IRB rules and regulations. This latter fact is what dissuaded me from doing a lot of research in my academic career.
  • Review articles – Most journals solicit authors to write review articles, so it is hard to get one accepted if it is unsolicited. That said, if you shorten it a bit by focusing on a more narrow topic and build it around a case presentation, you can get them accepted as case reports.

How to Build Your Academic Career in the Navy

What is the easiest way to build an academic career? It is simple but not easy. Not that many people follow through on it. Here are the steps:

  1. Obtain a USUHS faculty appointment – This blog post tells you how to do it.
  2. Progress toward promotion

This 2nd step is the step that most people fail to follow through on. They get appointed as an Assistant Professor, and then they stop working toward promotion to Associate Professor or full Professor.

In general, an Assistant Professor is a local/regional expert, an Associate Professor has established themself as a regional/national expert, and a full Professor has reached national or international acclaim. If you touch base with your USUHS department once a year and get their assessment about what steps you need to take to get promoted, you will be forcing yourself to progress in your academic career.

For example, I’m an Associate Professor of Military & Emergency Medicine and recently applied to be a full Professor. The feedback I was given was that I needed 3-4 more peer-reviewed publications as the first author. I may or may not choose to try and get them, but at least they gave me an honest assessment of what I needed to do. If you do this annually, you’ll get actionable feedback that you can address as you build your academic chops.

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