A Crucial Investment in the Vigor of the Profession

In 2004, Dr. Paul Tiwana was the recipient of a Faculty Educator Development Award (FEDA). The experience had a phenomenal influence on his career.

tiwana-paulThe FEDA, created by AAOMS and financially supported by both AAOMS and the OMS Foundation, was developed in 2002 to encourage promising young oral and maxillofacial surgeon faculty members to remain in a long term faculty career. It was also developed to provide a financial incentive to retain and recruit OMS faculty members to Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited residency training programs. The OMS Foundation has supported the FEDA since its establishment in 2002.

Dr. Tiwana is currently the graduate program director at Parkland Memorial Hospital/UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX. He is also chair of the AAOMS Committee on Resident Education and Training, which plays a vital role in setting educational standards at the residency level, and chair of the Special Committee on the FEDA, among various other professional committee appointments.

After completing residency at UNC Chapel Hill in 2002, Dr. Tiwana finished a fellowship in cleft and craniofacial surgery in 2003 at the Posnick Center for Facial Plastic Surgery in Washington, DC. His clinical and research interests include orthognathic surgery, facial trauma, and cleft and craniofacial surgery.

Below are Dr. Tiwana’s thoughts on the significant impact the FEDA had on him in the early years of his academic career.

Who and what inspired you to go into an academic career?

My parents were both teachers and for me this had a tremendous impact growing up.  I saw teaching as a noble profession with the opportunity to have a career that would be profound and intellectually stimulating.  I must also say that the faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, where I completed my residency, also had a major impact on me.  Like all residents, I worked with them every day of my residency and their dedication to the specialty always shone through.  This was further motivation for me to pursue an academic career.

What have been the most rewarding aspects of being a faculty member?

By far and away the most rewarding aspect of my career has been the opportunity to mentor and train OMS residents.  Uniformly, their infectious enthusiasm for the specialty and their desire to learn not only pushes me to be my best but also motivates my work every day.

How did the FEDA impact your career in its early stages?

It was enormous.  As a new faculty surgeon with a young family and a significant student loan debt, I was relieved of the burden of worrying about my student loans while I was establishing my practice.  In addition, the developmental portion of the award was instrumental in providing some seed money to establish a clinical research focus.

What challenges exist for the young faculty member today?

There are both great challenges and great opportunities for young academic surgeons today.  But the challenge of increasing student loan debt is becoming very difficult.  The pace of educational debt growth is far outstripping the pace of inflation. To further compound the problem, student loans accumulate a substantial amount of interest while the resident is in training. This interest accumulation over the course of a residency and possible fellowship can be crippling for all OMS graduates, but for the young faculty surgeon it is an especially difficult issue because salaries are typically much lower than in private practice.

How does the FEDA help address these challenges?

The FEDA helps tremendously because these funds help begin to reduce student loan debt while a new faculty surgeon is building a clinical component to his academic practice, which can often take several years.  In addition, the development funds are invaluable as universities face ever increasing budgetary pressure to support faculty with research and professional development seed money.  It has also provides well-deserved recognition to young academic surgeons who have promise and potential to be impactful to AAOMS and the specialty of OMS in the future.

What are your hopes for the future of the FEDA?

I hope it continues to be an important investment by our specialty for the future health and growth of the profession.  The “dividends and capital gains” of this investment are already reaping rewards beyond just the initial support of young academic surgeons.  It has provided an important way to assist in combating student debt and retain bright, talented young faculty members who grow to become the future leaders of our profession.  There is no doubt that one of the most pressing issues remains the amount of the award relative to the rapid acceleration of student loan debt.  While we must recognize that the purpose of the award is not to completely absolve student loan debt, many young faculty members now have loans in excess of $500,000.  The end result is that the financial impact of the award is decreasing every year.  We must find a sustainable way to adjust for the mounting debt facing our graduating residents.

Lastly, there are many more deserving faculty who should receive a FEDA, but are unable to do so because of the limited number available. Every effort should be made to increase the number as well as the amount of the award if possible.  The cause of the national faculty shortage is a matter of debate, but there is no question that OMS needs more young surgeons to pursue careers in academia.  I believe the FEDA remains the single most effective and visible tool that we have to combat this complex problem.  Our specialty needs future leaders on the front lines of the dental and medical school clinics and hospitals where competing specialties are actively trying to encroach on our traditional scope of practice.  Encouraging our residents to be future ambassadors of our specialty, and researching the scientific challenges of tomorrow not only makes sense, but also reveals the true nature of the FEDA: a crucial investment in the vigor of the profession of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.

For more information on the FEDA, visit the AAOMS website.

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