ACLGIM Leadership Forum

Perspective on Leadership

“Junior Visiting Scholars”—A High-Impact and Low-Cost Approach to Promote Talent

Dr. Estrada (, @EstradaElJefe) is professor of medicine and chief of general internal medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and at the Birmingham VAMC, Birmingham, AL.

The Visiting Professor is a well-established tradition in academic medical centers. Visiting Professors present at grand rounds, attend morning reports, participate in patient care discussions, and meet trainees and faculty for career guidance and advice on challenges and opportunities. The Visiting Professor is already recognized as a national leader in a specific area; in general, the trip does not serve as a catalyst for their career development. Could a similar approach serve as a spark for junior faculty development? At a prior ACLGIM meeting, leaders shared ideas to promote talent and “high potentials” among junior faculty.1 An idea that gained interest was an exchange program for junior faculty, thus “Junior Visiting Scholars” was born.

Junior Visiting Scholars

As a grass roots ACLGIM effort, the goals of the pilot program were to promote high-potentials, foster networking, and identify growth opportunities. Division Chiefs identified “high potentials” from their home institutions and sponsored their visits (i.e., released from duties, paid for transportation). The hosting institution crafted the itinerary, provided lodging, and covered local expenses (an honorarium was not provided).

Findings to Date

Four assistant professors visited our institution for a combined duration of 10.5 days. All scholars presented at a Tinsley Harrison Internal Medicine Noon Lecture for trainees. Dr. Elena Lebduska (University of Colorado) presented an overview of GIM Fellowships and Dr. Reem Hasan (Oregon Health & Science University) presented on Transitions of Care from Pediatric to Adult Care (she is Med-Peds trained). Drs. Reza Manesh (Johns Hopkins University) and Rabih Geha (University of California, San Francisco) visited together and discussed an unknown case presented by local faculty, with a focus on clinical reasoning.

Two scholars visited during a celebration of medical education, UAB Research and Innovations in Medical Education (, and served as judges for the poster session (clinical vignettes, innovations, and research). All scholars met students, residents, junior, and senior faculty during formal and informal sessions at social gatherings.

Unexpected Outcomes

All visits resulted in new collaboration efforts. Dr. Lebduska invited Drs. Karla Williams and KeAndrea Titer (UAB) to participate in a micro-aggressions workshop. Drs. Manesh and Geha invited Drs. Lindsey Shipley and Sal Kamal (UAB residents) to join the Clinical Problem Solvers podcast. Dr. Hasan will participate on a national workshop to promote talent. Their testimonials are as follows:

“Feeling like I gave something back. I think for whomever participates in the exchange it is important for them to feel like they are also giving back in some way. I really enjoyed giving the lecture on something that I am passionate about, meeting with the residents and giving them career advice and also being able to meet with the chief residents to help them with job planning and options.” —Dr. Lebduska

“The visit allowed me a few days of semi-structured time to think, reflect on my career and meet colleagues who are peers, who are potential mentors, and who are potential mentees which clarified for me the trajectory of a career in academic medicine. It also gave me flexibility to put together a talk about ‘anything’—and in doing so forced me to identify my areas of passion and contribution in a way that I had not been able to verbalize previously.” —Dr. Hasan

“Our visit to UAB was career-changing. The visit affording us the opportunity to interact with students, residents and faculty at a leading academic institution, and our growth from that experience cannot be captured in words. This visit also provided us with validation for the work we had been doing in ways that other experiences simply can’t. Finally, it has let to numerous other opportunities to collaborate with other individuals from UAB, and invitations to visit other institutions.” —Drs. Manesh and Geha

Challenges & Solutions

Finding the match between hosting and sponsoring institutions took time and effort. We started the matching process during networking sessions at ACLGIM national meetings by sharing areas of expertise. During follow-up communications, mutual areas of interest emerged. Second, identifying the faculty at the sponsoring institution took time. The leader at the sponsoring institution identified ‘high potentials’ who would benefit from visiting another institution. Third, funding was a barrier for some institutions and for a faculty who had exhausted professional development funds. Finally, the opportunity cost for the visiting scholar (time away from family and work) and hosting institution was not trivial; however, it was well worth the effort!


In addition to the unexpected new collaboration efforts listed above, the deliberate approach to identify high potentials allowed chiefs to reflect on the needs of existing talented faculty. We feel that for visitors, it provided stretch growth opportunities.

Next Steps

We envision Chiefs and other leaders connecting with each other to host and sponsor such faculty. An exchange program that aligns areas of expertise with areas of need or interest is likely to foster the professional development of junior faculty. This form of sponsorship may be particularly helpful for women, people of color, and under-represented minorities in medicine.

Addendum (April 2020): Given the current health crisis and downturn in the economy, a well-structured virtual visit may serve a similar purpose.


  1. Estrada C, Conroy MB. High potentials: Challenges and strategies to promote talent in your organization. ACLGIM Leadership Forum. 2018;10(2):3.


Tags and Keywords