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Division Chief

Julie Freischlag MD
Chief, Division of Vascular Surgery
Los Angeles, CA

In order to become a successful Division Chief, I believe one needs to have matured to the point that your goals are no longer just your own personal goals but the goals are for the group or Division you are planning to lead. I think you then have to have the mindset to distribute the resources fairly to your group- not preferentially to yourself. The most common complaint I hear from academic surgeons is that things are not fair at their institution. As a Division Chief, you can try to make things as fair as possible and to appreciate each member of the Division for their contribution.

The job of Division Chief is administrative (25-50%), clinical and research as well depending on your preference. Time is also spent mentoring those faculty in your Division as well as fellows, residents, and students. There is a lot of time spent on the finances as that is what allows you to grow and expand. You should be at least an Associate Professor and have had experience in running something such as a VA position, a committee, a research lab or a clinic. You also should have the beginnings of a national reputation for your clinical work or your research. Also, serving on national committees or being an officer in these societies can be helpful to get your name known. By volunteering to do some of these things at your institution, you can prepare yourself to be a candidate for Division Chief and also find out is you like being in charge and responsible.

To Negotiate the Job:

  • Know the present faculty and assess the growth potential and needs for them and any new faculty you will need to recruit. Ask for Departmental support for the new faculty positions such as for salary, research money, and moving expenses.
  • Know your clinical volume and budget trends. Do you run a clinic?  How many hospitals do you cover?  How is call taken and by whom? I think every Division Chief should take their share of calls again. It makes things fair and your faculty will appreciate it.
  • Know your research productivity. Is it clinical, basic science or both? Is there a lab or do you need to develop one? What is the cost of that? Do you need lab personnel? Again, at what cost? Who will run the research lab?
  • What residents and medical students rotate on your service? Is there a fellowship? Who will run the fellowship? It should be the Division Chief.
  • What will your personal role be in the Division? How much time will you spend being a clinician, researcher and administrator? About 50% of your time will end up being administrative.
  • What are the expectations of the Department Chair for your Division? Does he want a change? What is your vision and plan for the Division? Express them clearly and in writing.

To be a successful Division Chief, you have to have a good working relationship with your Chair and your faculty. You should be flexible to allow change to occur and you need to realize that not all your plans will come to fruition like you had planned. You need to treat others like you would like to be treated. You need to be available and upbeat so that the group will find you inspiring. You also need to have patience and realize that good things happen over time- sometimes a long time.


  • Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Professional Development Seminar for Mid-Career Faculty Women in Medicine

Designed for women associate or full professors with clear potential for advancement to a major administrative position such as section or department head.

2450 N Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037-1126
(202) 828-0400

  • Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women

This program is an in depth national program that has been developed for women academic faculty who demonstrate the greatest potential for assuming executive leadership positions within the next 5 years at academic health centers.

MCP Hahnemann University
The Gatehouse, 3300 Henry Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19129-1191
(215) 842-6041
(215) 842-1041 Fax

Recommended Reading:

  • Hardball for Women, Pat Heim
  • Who Moved My Cheese?, Spencer Thomas
  • Going to the Top, Carol Gallagher
  • The Power of Nice, Ronald Shapiro