Today, we speak with Dr. Stacey Poznanski, who was president of AWAEM from 2015-16 and on the faculty at Wright State University who talks about the friendships she’s developed through AWAEM, and how these relationships— and just knowing you’re not alone— have been vital to her career success.

MLin:                Tell me a little bit about where you are right now in your career and how you got there?

SPoznanski:      I am currently at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I’ve actually been here since graduating at residency. I did a fellowship in Medical Education cum Faculty Development right out of residency in 2010/11 and then stayed on here as Clerkship Director. I’ve held that specific position ever since really.

SPoznanski:      I’ve had additional positions here and there in addition to that, but Medical Student Education has been my love all the way through. As part of the University, I’ve been helping to create new curriculum for the School of Medicine, helping with the residency and various functions, developing curriculum for them etc, but that’s been my base job.

MLin:                That’s great. What motivated you to first get involved with AWAEM?

SPoznanski:      Well, I can remember a specific meeting where I met Gloria Kuhn, actually, when I was a fellow still and I happened to meet her one time at a conference somewhere. She started talking about it and AWAEM was in its first year so they had just put the group together. Kathy Clem was the President and she said, “You should join.” I said, “That sounds great.” It was very much a baby at that point in time and it’s incredible to see what it has grown to since I was involved.

MLin:                Tell me a little bit more about that, how AWAEM has grown and changed since then.

SPoznanski:      When we first started it was a very small conference call, I remember, and essentially, everyone that was on the Executive Committee, or the Board at that point in time was essentially the members. I don’t recall there being terribly too many members back then and it was just this nugget of really passionate women that became incredible mentors of mine and really helped to shape my career from its infancy.

SPoznanski:      Watching it grow to this incredible over 300 members now, 330, 340 members now with just this multi-faceted Executive Committee with all these different branches and Vice Presidents. It’s just been really impressive to watch the energy continue to branch down and grow. So many projects, so many publications, so many collaborations, and it’s been a lot of fun.

MLin:                Can you elaborate a little bit more about some of these collaborations and projects that have grown out of AWAEM that have helped members with their careers?

SPoznanski:      Yeah, sure. I think one of the ones that I was most intimately involved with, well, I was President, was the pre-conference, which has also become an annual thing which has been really fun to watch. Now, where there’s a whole committee dedicated to creating this pre-conference as part of the SAEM meeting, I was able to go as a participant last year and incredibly high-powered, very influential women speaking to other women about career advancement and continuing to promote that. I think it’s been fun to watch that grow. In addition to that, so many other research project. Too many to name, really, that has come out of it too.

MLin:                Great. How was AWAEM and your involvement in AWAEM affected your career development specifically?

SPoznanski:      It’s just been incredible. When I first started in my position, I was, I think the only woman and probably the youngest in a decade, I think, in my faculty. When I started out, I felt a bit alone in that regard in terms of how to navigate through being a woman, having children, and just progressing in general even just where to go as a faculty member let alone a woman in medicine.

SPoznanski:      They really became my lifeline. I learned just so much on how to negotiate, how to stand for myself, how to carry myself, how to move forward in the career … in my career, and then, the collaborations on top of that. The ideas of how to get involved with things. All of that and the friendships. I would say that’s the other really big thing. Just the friendship where you can call on anyone of these colleagues and friends at any hour and run an idea past them, have them be a sounding board. All of that has been vital to my career success.

MLin:                Great. You mentioned skills like negotiation that you learned from AWAEM. How have these skills and experiences translated perhaps into improved gender equity in your own work environment?

SPoznanski:      I think it allows me to … I think, most specifically, it allows me to pass those skills on to our own residents. I’ve been lucky and fortunate to be in a good position for myself. I’ve learned to negotiate different things for myself, of course, as far as career advancement, but I think the most beneficial is being able to pass those on to our residents as they are female residents, specifically, and students as they go advance in their career.

MLin:                Yes, very important. Tell me a little bit about what motivated you to seek a leadership position within AWAEM?

SPoznanski:      It just seemed natural, I think, at the time. Outside of my job with Wright State, AWAEM was really my passion when I was a junior faculty starting with … I think one of my first jobs outside of regional mentoring committee, I think, was the newsletter. At that time, it was just a one or two page publication of just announcements and types of things for AWAEM members and executive members itself.

SPoznanski:      So, I took that on as my passion and it has really grown from that. I was able to have come up with the title of AWAEM Awareness and that has become almost a substantial publication and part of SAEM, really. It’s become so large and I attribute that to all the team members that I had working on it as well.

SPoznanski:      That was my first real project with AWAEM and I think through that and growing through that, I progressed through … They offered me a Treasurer position which was really great as a junior faculty member. I think I came out of that right out of fellowship and then, it progressed on from there and just a natural transition. It never dawned on me to stop being an AWAEM member. There were so many benefits from when I was … It was just such a nurturing environment to be in and really just wanting to give back to AWAEM everything that it had given me as a group.

SPoznanski:      Progressing from there, I was member at large for a period of time as well and then progressed to Vice President, President, and then, Past President or I guess, President Elect was what they call it, then, President, then Past President. It has been a lot of fun.

MLin:                Comment on how your leadership in women-focused professional organizations has been considered for academic advancement such as promotion.

SPoznanski:      So when I went up for a promotion, I’m an Associate Professor now, I was able to go up for promotion at the earliest timeframe that they allowed. There was really no problem with my promotion at all. It wasn’t questioned a whole lot and I think a large part of that was because of my substantial leaderships through AWAEM. [inaudible 00:09:25] demonstrated national leadership roles in various ways.

SPoznanski:      In addition to that, that of course sparked additional leadership roles and other things through colleagues and helping each other out and then connections that you make create new opportunities. Through all of that, my CV just again, grew and branched from just this small … I’m just going to work on this newsletter as part of this group and it branched into so many other opportunities that it made promotion, for me, very seamless, actually. I encourage other young women to seek those leadership positions because even just that one can blossom into several.

MLin:                Tell me a little bit about how you anticipate the professional needs of women in Academic Emergency will change in the next ten years.

SPoznanski:      That’s a great question. I think our needs will continue to grow, hopefully, as we make more of a force of ourselves being in leadership positions. I think that’s the ultimate goal. Certainly, one of the main facets of AWAEM is to promote that leadership specifically in Academic Emergency Medicine.

SPoznanski:      I hope as we continue to make more of a presence, more and more women getting into senior leadership positions, that we will continue to advance.

MLin:                I hope so too. I’m going to transition a little bit to questions about your career in a broader sense. You spoke a little bit about your early career environment. Can you describe other ways in which gender has affected your career development?

SPoznanski:      Let me think. I think I’ve been fairly fortunate in that … I’m trying to think of any good specific examples. I’ve been fairly fortunate going through my career. I suspect it’s because I’m in a great environment at Wright State but also all of my connections through AWAEM that going forward, I’ve been very lucky in my career in not having specific problems. I don’t know if that’s what you’re getting at.

MLin:                Yeah. Some people have talked about parts of their career even before they’re in faculty but everyone’s had sort of different response but if there’s nothing that comes to mind, that’s okay, we can move on.

MLin:                What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

SPoznanski:      Probably my presidency with AWAEM, actually. I’m very proud to say that I was able to do that and make that impact and again, give back to AWAEM in a way … or attempt to give back to AWAEM what it’s given to me.

MLin:                Yeah, that definitely seems like something to be proud of. What piece of advice would you tell a younger version of yourself or an AWAEM member at an earlier stage of her career?

SPoznanski:      In the past, there has been a lot of conversation regarding women can or can’t do it all. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit in what we do accomplish. I think it’s important to give yourself a break and recognize that we do a lot more than we give ourselves credit for.

SPoznanski:      Gloria Kuhn at one point told me that, women kind of have seasons. At one point, you’re doing all that you want to do in this part of your life and there may be a few things that you don’t do at that point, but you’re going to do them later in a different part of your life. While you can’t do all of them at once, you can do them all over a period of time depending on what your interests are. You don’t have to do them all at once. I think that’s an important thing especially for someone coming right out of the gate that it’s okay to say “no” every once in a while and make sure you live your life accordingly. Take a breath every once in a while. Make sure you take care of yourself just as much as we, as women, like to take care of other people, ourselves tend to fall to the wayside more often. I think it’s really important to maintain a respect for ourselves and care for ourselves in that way.

SPoznanski:      I also think it’s important to remember for those that have children and this is another quote again from Kathy Clem, the previous president, is that your children are not going to remember who fold their socks. They may remember actually who sits down and plays the game with them or helps them bake cookies or something like that. So, unless it gives you joy, it is okay to outsource and give yourselves, again, a break on certain things. That way you have more time to spend doing the things that you love.

MLin:                Anything else I haven’t asked about AWAEM and your career that you might like to share?

SPoznanski:      I think we’ve covered a good portion. I think we’ve covered a whole lot of it. I think one of the other things I would really like to add or at least, reiterate is all of the incredible friendships and colleagues and connections that I’ve made and that being I think the strongest parts of AWAEM or at least has been for me. There are too many names to even … to come up with, but all of the presidents and past presidents have certainly held a special place in my part or in my heart as we’ve supported each other and going through and learning together and trying to grow this organization into what it has become. Truly, each one of them holds a dear place in my heart.

SPoznanski:      Certainly, all the other members of AWAEM and the Executive Committee is kind of going forward. We’ve spent a lot of time together, phone calls and emails. We’ve built some really great friendships. To me, that’s probably the most invaluable … even outside of academic advancement and publication because we can’t advance in our careers without those friendships and those bonds that keep us going in our time of need when we realize, “Ahh, I don’t know how to do all of this,” and because we all hit that point at some point.

MLin:                Yeah, I totally agree. There is no advancement without retention so that’s really critical. I am going to force you to name three other people who you think we should interview. It’s okay if they’re also past presidents. Ideally, one person around your career stage, one person who’s a little bit more junior, one person who’s more senior.

SPoznanski:      When I initially thought of these names I was thinking … A lot of them, as I mentioned before, came to know that past presidents or presidents before and after me because we did have such a strong bond but I’m going to branch out. I’ll specifically say those … Basmah and Michelle and Kinjal. Certainly, right around me … of course, all of them. So, I’m going to branch away from that so that I don’t reiterate those presidents but I want them definitely to know that they’re in my heart.

SPoznanski:      Those that are not presidents, since you’re already interviewing them, I would say one is Mary Jo Wagner. She has just been an incredible mentor to me in a lot of ways and I believe I met her through AWAEM if I recall.

SPoznanski:      Neha Raukar has also been an incredible support. She has been part of AWAEM executive committee I think almost as long as I have or close to it in various roles. Her energy and general support has always been a breath of fresh air.

SPoznanski:      Then, Laura Medford-Davis. She’s a bit junior than me not probably by too much. I remember her joining AWAEM as a resident member when fairly shortly after it started and watching her grow. I think she’s, again, been part of the Executive Committee almost from the get go. She’s still a valid, a very valuable part of the committee. Her work and watching her grow has been a lot of fun as well.

MLin:                That’s great. Thank you for those recommendations. I’m going to wrap up. Thank you so much again, Dr. Stacey Poznanski.

Listen to the full podcast here.