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Defining Scholarly Activity

Scholarly activity can be defined for our
purposes, as any activity that involves the intellectual and creative process in a way
that brings credit on the individual and/or the department and college in a significant way. In
Earnest Boyer’s book, Scholarship Reconsidered, he describes the need to get beyond the "teaching vs. research" debate and give the term scholarship "a broader meaning that brings legitimacy to the full scope of academic work." He views the work of the academic professional as having four separate yet overlapping functions. These are: the scholarship of discovery (research); the scholarship of integration (making connections across disciplines, or interpreting what the research means); the scholarship of application (utilizing knowledge in practice and community service); and the scholarship of teaching (the highest form of understanding).

Boyer goes on to say that we need to have a more inclusive view of what scholarship is, a recognition that knowledge is acquired through research, synthesis of ideas, through practice, and through teaching.

Examples of scholarly activity at our institution could be such things as curriculum development and evaluation, developing databases for critical decision making for patient care and practice management, creating a core content for Family Practice. It could be new programs that benefit patients, such as the Woman’s Health Initiative, or outreach programs for indigent care that incorporate innovative approaches and grants that might support these activities. These examples of scholarly activity have in common the need to be creative, to think, and have the energy to follow through with an idea; to go that extra step beyond the normal job description and add value to whatever activity you are engaged in. This is also what defines excellence, and excellence is what will be rewarded.

As we think about what scholarly activity means to our individual faculty members we should apply this concept to the core areas of academic medicine such as research, teaching, patient care and organization/management/service.

Research
We should first recognize that research is important. It represents one of the highest forms of scholarly activity and contributes to the body of knowledge that describes Osteopathic Medicine. It should be a priority for everyone. Remember that research is a skill which can be learned; however, original research is not the only product that describes scholarly activity. Many people in academic medicine are recognized as leaders in their field while not being prodigious researchers. Even if research cannot be undertaken one can still write for publication. There are a variety of opportunities in several journals where one can submit essays, letters, review articles, case presentations, book reviews, or brief communications. Writing textbook chapters, reviewing manuscripts for journals, and contributing to newsletters all satisfy the definition of scholarly activity.

Teaching
How do you define excellence in teaching? How can it be measured? What is that extra step that defines the creative process? Have you lectured at the state or national level, presented a workshop, taught a seminar? How can you evaluate the efficacy of teaching, and student learning? Are you aware of the many faculty development opportunities for improving your skills, and do you avail yourself of these?

Patient Care
If you only feel comfortable with direct patient care, there are standards for excellence that can be observed and measured. Are you current with the literature? Are you comfortable with practice guidelines, managed care issues, medical-legal issues? Can you communicate this to the students and residents? Do you model the scope of family medicine in your practice? What procedures do you do and teach? Do you participate in the in-patient service with our interns and residents? Are you visible to them? Are you a team player who takes full advantage of opportunities to participate in clinic activities and make improvements?

Organization/Management/Service
Creativity and scholarly activity can also be manifested in the ability to lead and manage well. Do you participate in programs and committees that add value to the department and the college? Are you involved at the college, state and /or national level in activities that are beneficial to the practice and development of Osteopathic Medicine? What have you done to connect the College with the community it serves? These types of activities constitute creative work that brings credit on the individual and the department, and can define excellence for that individual.

The opportunities to engage in scholarly activities are certainly not confined to these areas, but should be an expression of the individuals own abilities and ideas. A faculty member may also chose to be involved with several areas of scholarly activity and act as a role model for students and residents.

It is hoped that by defining the "process" of scholarly activity as a way to be self-actualizing outside of the more traditional roles of research or publications, that there will be more creative expression within the faculty. In this way we could create a system that allows everyone to achieve their potential in a way that best suits their own abilities and interests with academic excellence is the ultimate goal.

1. Boyer, Earnest L. Scholarship Revisited, Priorities of the Professoriate. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Princeton, New Jersey. 1994