ELAM® is a core program of the Institute for Women's Health and Leadership® at Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA.
The ELAM Program
Drexel University College of Medicine
2900 West Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129
Pay It Forward
When I walked through the doors of ELAM as a fellow in the fall of 2002, I had no clue how much the program would carry me through the turmoil of changing medical school leadership, the politics of organizational change and health care management, and my own job transitions. I just wanted to be a more effective educational leader in my role as associate dean and to survive the political games around me. As it turns out, my job as I knew it didn't survive. But I did. In fact, I am thriving as a leader serving leaders in academic medicine, dentistry, and public health. I, like many of you, now find myself in a position to "pay it forward" to the future of ELAM.
Wikipedia tells us that the concept of "paying it forward" was described in a play in 317 BC; it then appeared in print in 1916 when Lily Hardy Hammond wrote in her book, In the Garden of Delight, "You don't pay love back, you pay it forward." The phrase was made famous in the 2000 film by the same name. It describes a special kind of reciprocity in which, instead of returning a favor with a favor or with payment, one takes the kindness or service forward to others. The story led to the creation of the Pay It Forward Foundation - a global organization that disseminates information to encourage the principle ….to do something for three people, who do for three others. In 2003, my ELAM Learning Community incorporated concepts of networking and weaving support for each other into our name, The Netweavers. Imagine my surprise to discover that the president of the Pay it Forward Foundation is a man who founded a website based on reciprocity and called NetWeaving International. In fact, the site even has an aptitude assessment for different ways of giving.
That ELAM safety net of skills, colleagues, and opportunity played a major role in my leaving an institution where I had built an academic career over 20 years, moving to a new place, and reinventing myself with new challenges. While my classmates, and particularly those of us known as the Netweavers Learning Community, never would have predicted that the woman who loved waking up to mountain vistas would find herself living in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia directing this magnificent ELAM program, it suits me very well. My role as ELAM director allows me to contribute to creating a more inclusive and adaptive culture one fellow at a time, to ply my skill as an educator for the benefit of the nation's academic leaders, and to share what we have learned with a host of leaders around the world. I find myself blessed with a fair salary, meaningful challenges, emerging leaders who wish to be mentored, a happy home life (yes, this commuting arrangement between family in D.C. and work in Philadelphia works for me) and good health. I am absolutely in a position to "pay it forward" to future generations of leaders – especially ELAM fellows, the institutional leaders who support them, and the ELAM alumnae who are changing the face and nature of academic medicine, dentistry, and public health.
Why is giving to the ELAM community paying forward and not paying back? That's simple. Recall who it was that paid for your ELAM participation. For almost everyone, your registration fee and your expenses came from an institutional or departmental budget in the school that sponsored your fellowship. You gave up time, a little ego, and put in a lot of effort to get the most out of our fellowship. ELAM offered the program at cost (always has and continues to do so) with an expectation that you would "give back" by being the most effective leader you could under whatever circumstances you find yourself. There is no obligation to give back to the community, the faculty, or the staff that made so many wonderful things happen for you. However, if we wish to make a difference beyond the fellowship year, we will need to pay it forward through acts of mentoring, support of other women for positions and awards, and opening our accounts to contribute to the giving accounts that support us as alumnae.
Over the past two and a half years, I have witnessed many creative acts of generosity that contribute to ELAM being able to sustain and strengthen the ELAM Alumnae community.
To name a few:
- In 2009, Rosemarie Fisher, Rose Goldstein, Laura Schweitzer and Karen West offered to match all contributions from their class to mark its 10th anniversary.
- In the winter of 2010, I opened an envelope from Brenda Bucklin (ELAM Class of 2010) to find a check with royalties from her book, A Practical Approach to Obstetric Anesthesia by Brenda Bucklin, David Gambling and David Wlody, donated to ELAM in honor of all she already had received from early lessons to the program.
- Last year, David Bachrach gave his time and knowledge as an executive coach to Nancy Brown, who then successfully interviewed and negotiated for the position of chair, Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. In lieu of consulting fees, Nancy gave a generous gift to ELAM, and dedicated it to David.
- I have always designated my honoraria for charitable giving, and generally designated one a year to ELAM. Now, on the occasion that Page Morahan, Roz Richman, or I are offered an honorarium for conducting workshops or giving presentations at ELUMs' institutions, we request that the designated fee be converted to an invoice that, when paid, is sent right to the Innovations Fund.
- The class gifts have been very special. My own class of 2003 made a great celebration of giving our gift to Page Morahan and Roz Richman. Imagine my surprise when additional class gifts totaling more than $10,000 began to arrive. That's why we're able to have an alumnae program this December!
- Speaking of class gifts, when we gather this December for the first Alumnae Professional Development Program, we will acknowledge the great generosity of the classes of 2009, '10, and '11 who made the programming possible. We also have special acknowledgment to the class of 2002, who chose to honor the memory of class member Tana Grady-Weliky, who passed away earlier this year, with a very generous gift in her name.
On those occasions when you realize that you are using a skill that you learned during your ELAM fellowship or negotiating a wonderful new position with the help of the ELAM community of executive coaches, facilitators, staff and alumnae, consider paying it forward with a gift to the Innovations Fund. When you pause to reflect upon all that has happened for you and your class during a 5, 10, or 15 year anniversary of your graduation from ELAM, consider how all of you might mark that special time with a class gift to the Legacy Fund. And when you encounter small windfalls of monies not budgeted into your personal expenditures — such as a salary increase from a promotion or an annual bonus for productivity, royalties, honoraria — perhaps you might give a small amount to mark the history that contributed to your being fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right skill. Pay it forward to the future of ELAM, and to the future of women academic leaders across the nation and around the world.
Annual giving, class gifts, and pledges all go to support these two important funds.
The Innovations Fund, established at ELAM's 10th anniversary, supports the goals of sustaining women's leadership and changing the culture of academic health centers to value women's contributions by addressing all aspects of the leadership continuum, from changing roles and positions within or beyond one's institution to supporting post-ELAM education opportunities.
The Legacy Fund, initiated by the ELAM 2009 class gift, with the goal of establishing explicit support for ELAM alumnae programming, is aimed at providing support for alumnae professional development programs and community building within and across classes and learning communities.
Support these funds by giving online here.
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