Redefining Recruitment to Retention

An Academic Recruitment Journey – A reflection from one of our AIR members

By: Kate Rader, FASPR
Director, School of Medicine Faculty Recruitment
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine


Each of us has taken a different path in finding our way into the rewarding and unpredictable world of Physician recruitment. When someone asks what do you do, it’s always followed by – how did you ever find that kind of a job? Certainly, there is no straight answer and each of us brings the uniqueness of our past experiences into the roles we have today. However, we all carry the same skillset to succeed we are – very “-abled” individuals -hospitable, personable, reliable, accountable, etc. and in many cases sustainable because we are successful in our roles without the luxuries many other industries have.

In our roles, we are all salespeople – selling the opportunity, location, benefit package, etc. It’s easy to sell the features of the position because we all passionate about closing the deal. There is no greater feeling in your day than when you sign the doctor that will change healthcare in your community. However, your leadership may not quite understand how hard it was to secure the physician’s commitment which can be frustrating. Here’s some good advice -always take some time to celebrate your success with a fellow colleague or the ASPR network. We understand each other understand and will be there to celebrate with you!!

No matter where the position is located, organization structure, pay, or percent of academic time allocated, every job opening has its uniqueness. Being in Academic recruitment, in my opinion carries additional hurdles. Many of us have budget constraints and need to find ways to recruit on less than a dime. The free sourcing avenues can be taxing but, have produced qualified candidates – ACGME email blasts, LinkedIn, engaging your physicians/faculty, our residents and fellows. When I first started in this arena, medicine was different and we weren’t working to recruit our trainees but, that has come full circle in the last several years. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accreditation process or review can be challenging experience as well. A point of focus is ensuring diversified candidate pools and meeting other requirements related to the functions of a medical school. Unfortunately, many candidates don’t disclose information in the early stages of the application process as it’s not a requirement and unfortunately does not allow us to capture the metrics. We all push to have diversified pools but, having a confidential tracking tool can be a challenge. This topic has been an active conversation among academic recruiters for some time and many are all still in search of a great model. If you have one, please share it!

Through the years, I have experienced different office structures with each molding me into the role I have today. Under the direction of the late Joe Vitale at the Cleveland Clinic, I got my feet wet and will be forever grateful for the chance he took on me. Yet, it was my two colleagues and fellow AIR members, Michelle Seifert and Lauren Forst that really showed me the way. We were fortunate senior leadership saw the importance of inhouse physician recruitment professionals much earlier than my arrival. Upon arriving, the team was small compared to their vast enterprise today and each of us came into the role via very different paths. During my time at the Cleveland Clinic, as an example, we weren’t heavily involved in sourcing and to date, that has changed. Great focus was placed on the candidate experience and our roles did not formally make the job offer or negotiate the contract. Since those early years, the team has changed with the times as well and evolved into a much larger, broader and more robust Department expanding their geographic reach and services.

Due to my husband being relocated to the Dallas, TX area, my time at the Cleveland Clinic concluded. Fortunately, my experience in Cleveland interested leadership at UT Southwestern Medical Center. They liked my recruitment skill set and were interested in creating a similar model. I was eager to get started and mirror what Cleveland Clinic had done so successfully. Although I was supported in my efforts and work, not having physician leadership promote and the office, it never gained the traction I had envisioned. My services were more in line with being a concierge for recruitment working with departments that “got it” and understood the advantages of using my office. I was able to initiate an Onboarding process that does remain and has grown. During a change of leadership, I re-presented my plan and felt the office was going to morph into the vision I originally had but, once again not being promoted to the departments with the message coming from the Dean, the office never fully evolved like it could have. I did get to grow my team and take on APP recruitment, which was done full-cycle and proved to be a great learning experience. Ironically, it was as I was leaving and meeting with a physician leader the light went off as to what good could have become come with leadership support of the plan laid out a couple of times over the nine years.

Things changed and, in the summer of 2017, I was presented with the opportunity to become the Director of Faculty Recruitment in the School of Medicine for the newest medical school in the University of Texas system, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The school, located in a medically underserved area, at the boarder of Texas and Mexico presented an exciting challenge. Without the support of my AAPPR friends, AIR colleagues and tools, I would have never taken the leap. This time I knew it would be different! The Dean was arriving from Temple University and knew the importance of inhouse physician recruitment professionals. Coincidently, through the years, I had shared with previous leaders an electronic marketing brochure Mike Lester, the leader for the Temple physician recruitment team had developed. How ironic!

During my interview, I shared my vision that never gained traction at UT Southwestern. This Dean gets it! My current position certainly encompasses all the “-ables” (I eluded to earlier) to be successful and more. Our team does full-cycle recruitment for the Clinical, Research and Medical Education Faculty in the School of Medicine. A supportive leadership structure that “gets it” means everything to a faculty recruitment professional and the success of the organization.

In closing, I can’t put a price tag on the value of AAPPR and AIR and what it has done for me professionally and personally. For those that may be new to their present role or have questions on whether to take a leap- network with this community. There are members that have “been there” and can help you. You will never find a more collegial and supportive environment. We are each other’s best resources and biggest cheerleaders.