Faculty Associate Program

About the Faculty Associate Program

The Wellness Office identified six priority areas that focus on common influencers of burnout and well-being. Faculty associates are appointed to take a deep dive into one of these six domains to find scalable solutions with an anticipated long-term impact at Michigan Medicine that will improve well-being of faculty, staff, and/or learners.

Dr. Helen Kang Morgan presents at Grand Rounds on the topic of burnout

Read about the role Faculty Associates have in identifying and providing recommendations and solutions
for Michigan Medicine to increase workforce well-being and reduce burnout!

Reduce Burnout. Let's Build a Better Workforce - A Minute with Marschall

2021-2022 Faculty Associates Research & Progress

Anita Amin, MD | Internal Medicine

Researching solutions to alleviate burnout related to email usage at Michigan Medicine. Make recommendations to executive leadership on changes that can be made organizationally, and locally, to reduce email burden for faculty, staff, and learners.


Email burden is a significant driver of burnout across basic science and clinical departments based on data from the 2021 and 2022 engagement survey results. According to the survey data, 66% of clinical sciences faculty and 48% of basic sciences faculty believed email contributed to feelings of stress and burnout. Met with departmental leaders to better understand the challenges. Recommending email norms and best practices to reduce email burden at the local, team, and organizational level.


  • Researched and compiled a list of best practices and ideas from high-scoring departments that utilize strategies to reduce email burden.

  • Presented at Press Ganey Physician leaders national meeting and connected with individuals at health care systems exploring this topic in their institutions.

  • Collaborated with Michigan Medicine leaders and experts to communicate best practices. Dr. Amin’s work was recently featured in a Michigan Medicine Headlines article.

Next Steps:

  • Develop an online session or hands-on workshop, to help individuals learn effective and efficient strategies to mitigate email burden using tools within the overhauled Outlook email system.

  • Continue to compile and broaden communications on best practices to reduce email burden and burnout.

  • Share recommendations with executive leaders to drive organizational changes.

Kris Chrouser, MD, MPH | Urology
Evaluate the balance of job resources and job demands that can lead to burnout across the institution. Propose recommendations to executive leadership with specific ways to better support faculty, staff, and learners in optimizing the balance of job resources and job demands to improve the quality of life at work for faculty and staff at Michigan Medicine.


  • Faculty experience a wide variety of job demands and resources and the balance varies based on their home responsibilities (e.g., childcare needs, partner support) and work type (procedural vs office - based) and patient acuity.

  • The well-being perspective is often poorly incorporated into high level decision-making.


  • Created a set of burnout-focused exercises using proactive risk assessment and root cause analysis techniques for a national sample of chief residents. Resident feedback was positive and qualitative analysis of the data provided a detailed assessment of the factors influencing burnout in residents.

  • Designed and piloted a work and personal well-being self-assessment tools and exercises for use in a faculty retreat or small group setting to allow for both ongoing personal growth as well as identifying targets for burnout prevention efforts within departments.

  • Developed an implementation study of a surgical ergonomics intervention that includes the entire surgical team (education plus intraoperative stretches during long cases) to reduce the high levels of musculoskeletal pain in surgeons and staff working in operating rooms.

  • Created an Operational Decision Support Tool available now on the Wellness Office website to help any leader in making difficult decisions that factor in the well-being of the workforce.

Next Steps:

Roll out the ergonomics intervention pilot in the university hospital operating rooms. Results of the latest proactive risk assessment burnout pilot will inform how these tools could be scaled more broadly across Michigan Medicine. Additional findings will inform recommendations shared with executive leadership at the end of her project.

Helen Morgan, MD | Obstetrics and Gynecology
Develop a multi-faceted approach to facilitate communities of support for parents and other caregivers working at Michigan Medicine. Ultimately, this work will lead to recommendations to executive leadership on organizational changes to better serve our caregiver population at Michigan Medicine.


Assessed the 2021 and 2022 annual engagement survey data and research literature, which showed caregiving is a source of stress for those working in healthcare. Early analysis of 2022 organizational engagement survey data show that female faculty caregivers fare worse on nearly all metrics of well-being compared to their peers. Notably, 62% (n=315) of female physicians who are caregivers reported having one or more symptoms of burnout, and 50% (n=248) of female physician caregivers endorsed that lack of flexibility contributed to their burnout. When controlling for the variables of feeling valued and respected by the institution as well as departmental leadership, female caregiver status was no longer a factor associated with burnout, retention or satisfaction. Faculty rank continued to be associated with burnout.


  • Successfully added a question to the 2022 annual engagement survey for faculty and staff to determine which respondents were caregivers at the institution for further analysis.

  • Launched the Caregiver Boost Initiative in September 2022 and recruited 23 senior and mid-career Michigan Medicine faculty to serve as mentors for the four inaugural mentees. Mentees receive mentorship and executive coaching to navigate caregiving challenges in their career.

  • Mentors and mentees involved in the first cohort of the Caregiver Boost Initiative have been surveyed for feedback. Early analysis shows positive comments from both mentors and mentees.

  • Launched a monthly series “Parenting and Caregiving on the Frontlines” on The Wrap employee podcast touching on various caregiving challenges. These conversations will feature interviews with faculty, staff, and learner caregivers, with the goal to normalize and destigmatize discussions around caregiving and successes and difficulties people face.

  • Analysis of the 2022 engagement survey data will continue, with a focus on both staff and faculty wellbeing metrics for self-reported caregivers.

  • Featured in a Michigan Medicine Headlines article in September 2022.

Next Steps:

  • Launch Cohort 2 in November 2022, and recruit faculty mentors for these teams.

  • Episodes of The Wrap podcast will continue to share important stories to help people feel heard and realize they are not alone.

  • Outcomes of this work will inform recommendations to leadership, around spring of 2023, to improve the quality of life at work for caregivers at Michigan Medicine.

Raf Rizk, MD | Gastroenterology
Develop a pilot project to determine if ambulatory care physicians' participation in electronic health record (EHR) short training sessions is associated with increased utilization of EHR features, shifting the bedside focus away from ‘how to use the EHR’ and more on caring for the patient. A second project aims to determine the feasibility and acceptability of an opt-in vacation coverage pool system among physicians who want to 'fully unplug' from EHR tasks while on vacation. Findings and recommendations will be shared with executive leadership to inform potential broader initiatives and/or interventions to reduce burnout related to EHR utilization.


For the physician pool coverage, surveys of a single specialty (n=37) indicated the following:

  • Between 65 - 90% of physicians are responding to email, pages, or EHR portal messages on a majority of their vacation days

  • Physicians cited many reasons to continue responding to email, pages, or EHR portal messages while on vacation

Preliminary interviews with physicians across multiple specialties show an interest in rapid learning sessions for the EHR, but the primary barrier is finding time amid busy clinical schedules. Protected time from clinical activities was cited as one way to help increase participation in learning activities.


  • Developed short training sessions aimed at increasing the utilization of high-yield time-saving MiChart features. Finalizing training sessions for EHR skills with faculty input.

  • Explored the feasibility of an opt-in system for vacation coverage and retaining faculty autonomy.

Next Steps:

  • The next phase for the EHR training sessions pilot is to finalize outcome measures, followed by recruiting physicians in ambulatory care for the EHR training sessions.

  • For physician pool coverage, develop a prototype of the vacation coverage pool and assess for feasibility.

  • Share preliminary survey results with faculty and division leadership.

  • Results will help support the development of future initiatives to improve the clinician experience with the EHR.

Gurjit Sandhu, PhD | Department of Surgery and Department of Learning Health Sciences
Research key factors influencing psychological safety among trainees and faculty at Michigan Medicine. Propose changes to the learning environment based on this research will benefit learners and faculty. Ultimately, results of these findings will be shared with executive leadership to effect change across the organization.


While there is a growing body of evidence about the symptoms and effects of professional burnout, the sources of the distress in the clinical learning environment are less well understood. Edmondson's work on psychological safety points to an important area of investigation for better understanding the source of professional burnout and workplace well-being. With increased psychological safety, Edmondson found an association with team learning behaviors and team performance. Building on this foundational knowledge, our investigation focused on how psychological safety may be implicated in professional burnout and personal well-being in the unique clinical learning environment of medical centers to determine how it affects educators and learners.


Developed a local project team to explore interventions that improve psychological safety in the learning environment. The project has four phases: quantitative survey, qualitative interviews, dashboard and dissemination, and project evaluation.

The first phase of this work was conducted as a pilot study with 258 clinical faculty at Michigan Medicine. A conceptual model of hypothesized relationships was developed and analyzed (Figure 1). An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was used to examine the data and uncover the various higher-level constructs of psychological safety, professional fulfillment and their potential relationships/drivers. Furthermore, a conceptual model of hypothesized relationships was developed and analyzed. For faculty, psychological safety was associated with interpersonal trust, feedback, retaliation worry, and performance worry. Professional fulfillment for faculty was driven by teaching development and professional defeat.

Next Steps:

Next steps for this work include expansion to additional sites nationally with the goal of refining the conceptual model. Additionally, this research has the potential to identify effective strategies aligned with the conceptual model for enhancing psychological safety in the clinical education environment for both faculty and trainees, informing dissemination and viable implementation approaches, establishing pathways to evaluate efficacy, and supporting the ability to scale the work for future scholarship.

These lessons will help to improve recommendations made for faculty and learners at Michigan Medicine to optimize the learning and teaching environment.

Michael Brenner, MD | Otolaryngology
Amy Zhang, MD | Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Identify the current state of vacation utilization among faculty and staff at Michigan Medicine, understand barriers to vacation utilization, and propose solutions to achieve healthier work-home flexibility. The outcomes of this work will be presented to executive leadership to inform organizational changes to vacation utilization practices and policies.


Previous faculty associate, Dr. Lauren Owens, analyzed data for faculty and staff at Michigan Medicine to evaluate vacation and sick time utilization and assess possible correlation with work-life balance questions from the annual Employee Engagement survey.

Completed data gathering and statistical analysis phases are complete and found:

  • 71% of staff took sick time over a one-year period (based on data from 3,176 staff responses).

  • Most faculty (based on 708 faculty responses) did not use a full 22 days of vacation; the median number of vacation days used was 18.34.

  • About one quarter (25.9%) of faculty took any sick time

  • There were no strong associations between either faculty or staff sick/vacation time utilization and work-life balance questions on the Employee Engagement survey.


Dr. Owens is leaving Michigan Medicine and will be passing on her work to Drs. Amy Zhang and Michael Brenner to explore possible solutions to improve the way vacation time gets utilized among faculty and staff.

Next Steps:

Drs. Zhang and Brenner will examine existing policies and barriers to vacation utilization to inform recommendations at the local level to ensure faculty and staff can fully utilize, and enjoy, their vacation time in order to decompress from work and recharge.