First and foremost – best wishes for a peaceful and fulfilling new year. May 2019 be a year that, through our efforts and those of many others, renews our sense of optimism and hope for the direction of our country and the world.
Towards that end, the Office of Diversity and Outreach is offering opportunities in January to be inspired as UCSF celebrates my personal hero Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Included are a keynote address from Dr. Clayborne Carson – founding director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University – January 29 at noon in N-225, and an upcoming screening of the documentary I Am MLK Jr. (additional details on the Multicultural Resource Center website).
Second, just a reminder of how I hope a quick glance at Expresso can be an efficient use of your time. The overall structure is always the same: a brief intro, three highlighted topics, and a Tip. The intent is that you scan the three topics and see if any capture your fancy. Each story is just a click away, and I try to keep them between 500 and 1000 words.
So, here we go!
- The Staff-Faculty Relationship: A partnership for the common good
- To Disclose or Not Disclose: There is no question
- Who’s Zoomin’ Whom?: Conferencing technology keeps getting better
Finally, your input matters. What do you think of these topics? Do you have any others you’d like me to cover in Expresso? What are your wishes for 2019? Please drop me a line and let me know at [email protected].
The Staff-Faculty Relationship: A partnership for the common good
There’s no question that the professional success I’ve enjoyed would not be possible without the contributions of the first-rate staff who have supported me throughout my journey. No doubt many of you feel the same.
Yet, no surprise, a perceived power imbalance can cause tensions to arise in the faculty-staff relationship. This is prevalent throughout institutions of higher education, including UCSF (although I’d like to think it is not as extreme as at many other places). Twenty years ago, in January 1999, the UC Task Force on Faculty/Staff Partnership was formed. Renee Binder, professor in the Department of Psychiatry, was on the task force representing UCSF. Renee says, “I think the most important take-away from the task force was how important it is for staff and faculty to work together with mutual respect.” Discussions revealed that some staff felt unfairly treated because faculty sometimes worked from home while they could not. Staff also interpreted their work as menial tasks as if they were the handmaidens of the faculty. Conversely, some faculty felt that staff had the benefit of regular hours while they had to work 24/7.
Renee thinks that a lot has changed since, but some has not. We agree that we all need to emphasize the idea that everyone plays an important role in contributing to the mission of UC.
Faculty can wield authority in ways that staff perceive as unfair. Sometimes a brilliant clinician or researcher is put into a leadership position without adequate training in those responsibilities. In other situations, the faculty member is focused more on research, grant-writing, teaching, or clinical care, and doesn’t appreciate the human resources components of the role. (While the lion’s share of issues I’m talking about here involve staff frustrated with a faculty boss, the challenges are definitely bidirectional, and the resources I’ll describe below can be accessed by faculty if issues arise with a staff member.)
Our human resources department has hired the Gallup polling organization to conduct staff engagement surveys since 2011, and because these yield such valuable information, we’re going to continue them every year. One recurring finding from the surveys is that staff don’t feel their voices are heard.
Nancy Duranteau, UCSF’s Chief Learning Officer and the director of Learning and Organization Development, which oversees the survey, says that her department is doing two things to respond to the hierarchy that is often inherent in a large enterprise like UCSF. It is assembling a list of best practices culled from the most successful managers, to serve as a resource for leadership training. Examples are co-creating and implementing engagement action plans with direct reports as well as encouraging and enabling team member participation in activities outside the department. In addition to general management training, they are also partnering with the Office of Diversity and Outreach and other key players to make sure we have an inclusive environment.
Office of the Ombuds
Led by Maureen Brodie, the Office of the Ombuds helps resolve issues between faculty and staff and offers informal conflict management. Faculty and staff alike can make a confidential call to get advice on how to deal with a difficult situation. According to Maureen, the vast majority of issues center on respect, recognition, and communication. An effective service that balances the power dynamic is mediation. “Every employee has similar, basic human needs,” Maureen explains. “To feel heard, to be included, and to be valued and respected, no matter where they are in the organization, and the key to promoting that feeling of inclusion, value, and respect is communication – consistent, authentic, reliable communication.”
Maureen notes that the importance of fostering faculty-staff relationships is recognized as a critical effort in our four schools. Within each, faculty members do have access to leadership training and can learn the all-important tools of conflict management, collaboration, and communication. In addition, the Graduate Division offers an annual spring workshop.
Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP)
Led by Andrew Parker, FSAP is another place where individuals can go to seek counseling about workplace issues they’re experiencing. FSAP also provides confidential counseling for any kind of issue, even something in your personal life, but Andrew says the top issue for the past fifteen years has been challenges people have with their supervisors, whether faculty or staff.
One common source of tension is the concept of “urgent” vs. “important.” In life, urgent wins virtually all the time. Everything else in the moment tends to take second or third place, and that includes communication. The important thing is to have a good infrastructure – meaning a foundation of a good, solid management system, with strong communication, respect, and civility in place so that those tense, urgent situations play out more smoothly. FSAP can come into a department or unit to assess the culture and offer tips for improvement.
Another valuable program that FSAP promotes is the UCSF Schwartz Rounds. Andrew says more than one hundred people – a mix of faculty, staff, and students – attend the monthly meetings on topics like caring for the homeless, feeling helpless when treating chronically ill patients, and coping with the moral distress of health inequities. It’s a great way to bring all of our employees together in a forum where we’re on equal footing.
Given all of the programs, tools, and services, tension is a part of life. It’s all in how we deal with it. While there isn’t any published follow-up to the 1999 UC task force’s recommendations, there’s no time like the present to continue breaking down the barriers. If you have a best practice that works, please drop me a line!
To Disclose or Not Disclose: There is no question
You may have seen news reports this past fall about Dr. José Baselga, who resigned his post as the chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York after the New York Times and Pro Publica reported that he had “failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from health care companies in dozens of research articles.”
Stories like this raise public awareness about industry payments to researchers, so I’m taking this opportunity to stress the importance of disclosing any financial interest you or your close family members might have that relates to your research. The UC Office of the President recently issued a new policy to clarify the existing state requirements for reporting and reviewing researchers’ financial interests in private entities. According to the UCSF Conflict of Interest (COI) Program team, the new policy should not have a noticeable impact on researchers or the existing COI processes, but it provides an opportunity to highlight the institutional support available to researchers who collaborate with private entities.
The good news is the UCSF COI team is working to integrate the financial disclosure process with existing IRB (iRIS) and grants (eProposal) systems in an effort to make the COI process as streamlined and painless as possible. When the COI Program launches its new disclosure system in early 2019, researchers (known as “investigators” in the regulations) included on a specific project proposal or IRB application will automatically receive brief COI questionnaires in the iRIS system. The COI team hopes to make the disclosure process easier by moving all COI forms, such as the annual COI questionnaire required for Public Health Service funding, the California Form 700-U for privately-funded research, the PI Certification Form, and IRB-related questions into a single electronic system. “The goal of our new system is to integrate and consolidate disclosure submission and review,” says COI Manager Kendra Aiken. Automatic notifications and routing, electronic questionnaires, correspondence, and reporting will all happen in one system, which will help the Conflict of Interest Advisory Committee more easily complete COI reviews. Whew – let’s hear it for technology!
As a researcher myself, I know the last thing any of us want is another bureaucratic hurdle, but we have to remember that these rules are in place for a good reason – to promote transparency and ensure public confidence in the objectivity of our research and how it’s funded. It may help to know that COI disclosures are reviewed by a committee of your peers – the Conflict of Interest Advisory Committee (COIAC), chaired by Thomas Lang, associate dean for research in the School of Dentistry, and its members are all faculty investigators. While researchers may sometimes feel uncomfortable about disclosing their personal financial information, COIAC members regularly review this information and focus on helping researchers proactively manage potential conflicts before research gets started. Financial interests need to be managed to prevent people from challenging the veracity of your results down the road.
“We’re here to maintain the objectivity of the research and to protect the reputations of UCSF researchers,” Kendra adds. A final note – it’s a good rule of thumb I use for these sorts of things (including questions about plans for human research) – when in doubt…reach out! The COI team is available to help with questions or with navigating the process.
Who’s Zoomin’ Whom?: Conferencing technology keeps getting better
Remember the iconic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? There’s a scene that has stuck with me over the years – just as much as the monolith, or the evil computer HAL having a meltdown. A man in a futuristic airport ducks into a glass phone booth, dials a number, and places a video call to his daughter. The concept was astonishing in 1968, when the movie was released. Now, of course, it seems almost quaint, as we Skype and FaceTime our friends around the world.
At UCSF, we’ve been using videoconference technology for quite a while, but I’m pleased to spend some time talking about Zoom. It’s easier to use than the previous, clunky options and – perhaps most importantly in this era – it’s secure and HIPAA-compliant. In our favor, the UC system already had a contract to use Zoom, so UCSF was zooming off to the races. My sense is that we have finally entered a new era of reliable videoconferencing at UCSF.
Sian Shumway, our director of IT customer service, said Zoom proved itself in the demanding field of telehealth, making it easier for clinicians and their staff members to communicate with patients. “The growth of telehealth has been exponential in this area,” Sian says, pointing out that if it is secure enough for telehealth, you know it will likely do the trick for your general meeting needs.
Benjamin Wallen, an AV innovation specialist in Educational Technology Services, was, at first, unsure about bringing on yet another “system-solution,” but now has the zeal of a convert. He trains people on Zoom and offers a few useful tips, including:
- Test first and start small. Zoom has a lot of features. Learn the basics, and don’t use it for the first time for a critical meeting, or a confab with twenty colleagues.
- Reduce background noise and use a wired USB headset with your computer to focus on getting the cleanest audio possible.
- “You cannot defy physics,” Ben says. If you sit twenty-five feet away from a tiny desktop microphone, people will not hear you.
- Make ample use of the mute button. If you’re leading the videoconference, ask everyone to put themselves on mute. Yes, we can hear you typing…and your burrito being unwrapped.
I haven’t paid attention to it, but Zoom has what my team has called the “glam setting” – a video setting you can check to “Touch up my appearance.” There is also the option of inserting your photo when you don’t want to broadcast video, or inserting virtual backgrounds.
Sian and John McWalter, an audio visual engineer on her team, note that you can download Zoom apps on your iPhone or Android and use it remotely. People have even Zoomed in from Muni buses and not lost connection!
You can also configure your own Personal Meeting ID (e.g., to match your office phone number). However, be aware that if you have back-to-back Zoom meetings and use this option for both, there’s a risk of callers joining before the prior session has concluded. If it’s a confidential call, it’s best to let the system generate a meeting ID.
Given how reliable Zoom has been, Andy Josephson and I recently used it for a couple of “office hours” sessions that we held during our annual neuroscience course for the medical students – it worked great! Students were able to call and ask questions from anywhere, we used screen sharing to go over slides from lectures and other images, and we had more flexibility in terms of convenient times for getting folks together. We’re definitely going to expand the use of Zoom in our class next year.
Also on the education front, in case you don’t know – the Library’s Learning Technologies team, led by Sean McClelland, already set up, integrated, and implemented Zoom into Moodle, its learning management system.
Set up your account at ucsf.zoom.us. Help is just around the proverbial corner. Submit an IT ticket, and Sian and John will have someone set you up, or reach out to ETS. The team can provide you with more useful tips and meeting support.
Of course, this story brings to mind what must be two of the funniest YouTube work culture videos of all time – the parodies of teleconferencing and videoconferencing by Tripp and Tyler. I sent the latter back in July 2016, but if you haven’t watched either one, take a few minutes – I promise you will crack up.
So, to close, I have to ask, in the words of the late, great Aretha Franklin: Who’s Zoomin’ Who?
Dan’s Tip of the Month
The breakneck speed of the 24-hour news cycle is pretty daunting. How to digest it all and separate fact from fiction? Have you heard about “The Daily”? My friend and colleague Wade Smith turned me on to it about a month ago, and now I’m a regular listener. I agree with its tagline: This is how the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism. For a sane and informed 2019 – check it out!