The start of November is a good time to review what the people at the new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine have been working on this summer and fall and what’s to come.
In late September and early October, then-Acting Dean Ken Roberts led a series of community meetings in Spokane, Richland, Vancouver and Everett. The purpose was to give selected members of the public a first look at the university’s draft accreditation document. Roberts and his staff asked participants for feedback which the college could use to improve the document.
Since those meetings, staff members have been collecting comments from the invited participants. An executive summary that includes the feedback will be included in the final accreditation document, which the college will submit before December 1.
The Vancouver and Everett meetings came on Dr. John Tomkowiak’s second and third days on the job. Tomkowiak is the College of Medicine’s new founding dean and he jumped right into the job with both feet. He visited the chancellors of the WSU campuses in those cities and got acquainted with leaders from the college’s new clinical partners. (read more about Tomkowiak’s first week at https://medicine.wsu.edu/features/.)
At the end of that first week, we sat down with the founding dean for a brief “getting-to-know-you” interview.
Q: What are the best traits you bring to this job?
JT: There are two things that I work really hard at. One is establishing a culture where everyone can operate at the highest level of their skill and passion. Creating that environment where people feel safe and comfortable to really go out on the edge, because I think that’s our opportunity as a school to constantly be pushing the envelope and that’s going to make all of us better.
The second is relationship building. I’ve worked at four community-based medical schools. I know the importance of relationships. In our concentric circles, we start within our own college and the relationships we have with each other and we reach out to nurture relationships with people in the larger university, our affiliate partners and all the folks who are going to be helping train our students. That circle gets larger and larger as we reach out into the legislature, which is responsible for the wellbeing of the entire state.
Q: You have a strong interest in leadership. You received your master’s degree in organizational leadership from Gonzaga. What did the Jesuits teach you about leadership?
JT: I think the first thing they taught me is that a great leader is an excellent listener. Good leaders seek to understand people’s needs. They pay attention to the humanness in all of us.
I’m going to be having a school forum later today where I will talk about the importance of three priorities that every single person in this medical school should follow. Those priorities, in order, are personal health, family and friends and our work. I feel very strongly that if we don’t take care of ourselves, our physical and mental health, we’re not going to be good to anyone else. If we don’t take care of our friends and family who we care a lot about, we can’t focus on our work. I’ve found that if you build a culture where everyone has that approach, where everyone has each others’ back, that when there’s a time when someone does need to focus on a family or friend, everyone is willing to pitch in and cover and help. It makes for an environment where people feel appreciated and valued.
Q: You’ve had a chance to travel and meet people at the college’s clinical campuses. What have you learned in your first few days on the job?
JT: My first impressions have exceeded my expectations. The willingness and the thirst for the community to partner with us is palpable and I haven’t heard anybody say no yet. I do appreciate this might be a honeymoon period for the medical school and for me to the extent that people are willing to roll up their sleeves, help out with the work, to pitch in to help make this a great school, I think this is very special.
Our success, in large part, will be predicated on our affiliate partners and our community stakeholders’ involvement. I really want to drive that message home that the more they invest and are involved, the better. And I want to make sure they understand that.