Division Chiefs/Chairs

Access resources, answers to FAQs, sample templates, and tools specifically compiled for division chiefs and chairs.

Best Practices

View articles and tips to help you manage your division and/or department.

Managing Budgets

Discover negotiation suggestions and strategies from various sources.

Volume vs. Value-Based Health Care

The industry as a whole-from Medicare to commercial payers-is moving away from fee-based volume of care to reimbursement for improved outcomes of care or value-based care. View resources for transitioning.

Workforce and the Value of Neurology


How to recruit effectively?
How to motivate for academic productivity?
How to deal with difficult faculty?

Events/Key Dates

 AAN Programs
 AAN Leadership Programs
Non-AAN Programs


Hear fellow division chiefs and chairs discuss overcoming challenges, the best parts of their role, advice, and recommendations.

David Lee Gordon, MD, FAAN, Professor and Chair

David Lee Gordon, MD, FAAN, Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

I love being a chair and I've wanted to be one since my first year as an assistant professor in 1991. At that time, I read two books that shaped my views of leadership: “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven R. Covey and “E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber.  After being stroke director at the University of Mississippi for eight years and assistant director at the University of Miami Center for Research in Medical Education for seven years, I actively sought a “head coaching” job in neurology and became chair of neurology at the University of Oklahoma at the age of 46 in January 2007.  Thus, I've been a chair for eight years. 

Many centers were not interested in my candidacy for chair because my career path was primarily through education and, therefore, I have never had NIH funding. Leadership, however, is my calling and, fortunately, the search committee and dean at OU College of Medicine decided to take a chance on me. By nearly all measures, I have been a successful chair, e.g., increasing the faculty size from 16 to 41, increasing the residency program from 3.5 to 6 residents per year, adding two new fellowship programs, and converting our clerkship from the lowest rated on campus to among the highest rated in the nation on the AAMC Graduation Questionnaire. It has not been easy. I still work nearly 70 hours a week. I am, however, extremely happy. I love my department and the folks I work with on a daily basis. I consider myself very lucky. 

My advice for anyone considering becoming a chair is to: only become a chair if you like the job of chair, i.e., leading, managing, and mentoring, and your number one goal is improvement and growth of the department. Avoid becoming a chair if your primary motivation is providing protected time for yourself or because your ego mandates your ascension to a higher rung on the academic ladder-chairs with these primary motivations are rarely effective or successful. Also, realize and embrace the fact that you will be a role model and your actions will be watched and judged by your faculty, trainees, and staff on a daily basis. View and lead your department as if it is a business and you are the business owner. Read and re-read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven R. Covey and embrace, live, and teach the 7 habits, especially these four: Begin with the end in mind, Think win win, Seek first to understand before being understood, and  Sharpen the saw. Read and re-read “E-Myth Revisited” (a small business book) by Michael E. Gerber and embrace its principles, especially these: The most successful business owner (chair) is one who is equal parts technician, manager, and entrepreneur; Your business (department) is a distinct reflection of who you are; Have a vision (= “the end in mind”) and articulate it clearly; Delegate, but never abdicate responsibility; Be a “warrior” who takes everything as a challenge, not an “ordinary person” who takes everything as a blessing or curse; Hire and keep people who buy into your vision. I also suggest following the advice of Dee Hock (founder of Visa credit card) regarding hiring and promoting:  Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Also, recruit, assign, and incentivize faculty based on their personal skills and interests with a financially viable plan to protect the time of key leaders such as clerkship director, program director, clinic medical directors, and section chiefs; hire and value generalists and promote them for their contributions to outpatient care, inpatient consult service, and medical student education; and allow specialists to specialize-as much as possible, limit their clinical activities to their specialty, value and promote them for their contributions to outpatient care, research, and resident and fellow education, but limit their exposure to medical students. Finally, make medical student education a priority and view medical students as important clients. They are a free marketing team with wide influence around campus and eventually become residents and practitioners who can refer (or not refer patients) to your practice.  Furthermore, an effective and well-respected medical student program leads to more students choosing a career in neurology and makes recruiting residents and, eventually, faculty easier.


Carlayne E. Jackson, MD, FAAN, Chief Medical Officer

Carlayne E. Jackson, MD, FAAN, Chief Medical Officer,  UT Medicine San Antonio, University of Texas Health Science Center

I became a division chief by default-I was the only neuromuscular faculty for over 10 years and then we hired two junior faculty who I was asked to mentor. I went from having complete control over everything, to a new role in which I needed to help develop the academic careers of two very busy clinical faculty with young families. My biggest challenge was to match the strengths of each faculty with their interests and the needs of our patient/academic community. I had to learn to be strategic rather than tactical! The best advice I have is to sit down face to face at least once a month for lunch and prepare a written agenda (which everyone is invited to contribute to). We openly discuss challenges and trouble shoot. We review where we are now and what our "dream division" would look like. We review our current research projects and ideas for new studies. We try to have fun-there is always a cartoon on the agenda!

Richard Mayeux, MD, Chair

Richard Mayeux, MD, Chair, Department of Neurology, Columbia University

Being a chair is a critical responsibility. You represent your department's interest in every aspect of the medical center from clinical operations to basic research. It is a 24/7 job.

Being the department chair was not a lifelong goal. In fact, 15 years earlier I had thought about being a chair, but decided against it for family reasons. The University and Hospital wanted a rapid transition and I was appointed through a very brief search. 

One of the biggest challenges I've faced is that when I became chair we were faced with a historical deficit of nearly $7M and an annual deficit ranging from $2M to $3M. I had to close the gap and rebuild the department in a short amount of time.

The best part of being a chair is that I truly enjoy helping young faculty grow into their careers. 

As far as advice for anyone considering being a chair, I have a set of rules on my desk that I have collected over my career: 

  1. Be positive-how you think is everything!
  2. Develop goals and the plans to achieve them.
  3. Take action now, don't wait.  Just do it!
  4. Never stop learning.
  5. Be persistent! Do not give in!
  6. Analyze details, but never get stuck there.
  7. Focus your time on your specific goals and nothing else.
  8. Be innovative and be different!
  9. Communicate with everyone effectively and continuously.  Make sure they understand you. (Create a weekly newsletter from the chair).
  10. Be honest, dependable, consistent, and responsible because in the end that is all that really counts.

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