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Celebrating 20 Years of Stepping Stones: In Conversation with Ivan Silver

This year, CFD is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of our inaugural Stepping Stones program! We recently had the opportunity to interview Ivan Silver, the inaugural Director of the CFD, about how Stepping Stones began and how it’s changed.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your involvement with CFD.

I was the Director at the Centre for Faculty Development for seven years and did some other leadership roles too. I also had a wonderful practice in geriatric mental health, which I retired from this past June.

I’ve been a faculty member in the Stepping Stones program for quite some time now and I’ve also maintained my connection with the Centre by increasing my role as a coach. I’m a coach for the Enhancing Teacher Performance program, for New and Evolving Academic Leaders (NEAL), and for the Education Scholars Program (ESP). Those are my three coaching roles and I also do some training about coaching in the Department of Psychiatry.

Q: How did Stepping Stones come to be?

I had the terrific opportunity to start the Centre for Faculty Development back in the fall of 2002. Stepping Stones was our first program and it came from a few sources.

When the Centre first started, I had never led anything that ambitious before. Because of this, I visited other universities that had established faculty development centers as I was interested to see what the structure was and how/what they offered. What I walked away with was that there was a gap in structured programming. This led me to look at the faculty development programming at universities more broadly, where I saw more structure. When we did our first needs assessment with our faculty, we received a lot of positive response around the idea of a credential program. So I thought, our programming, whatever it looks liked, should be a series of stepping stones with the potential for credentialing.

We assembled a small planning group together and got to work. We had created the structure of the participants picking 8-10 workshops over a two-year period, joining a journal club, and then at the end, getting a certificate of completion from the university. We created a buzz about it, and after a month of advertising, the program’s very first cohort was full. Two years later, we had our first graduation ceremony for Stepping Stones; graduates attended with family, it was really quite exciting.

Q: Where did the name Stepping Stones come from?

I “stole” the name. Here’s the story:

I had been involved in geriatric-based undergraduate education; I was really keen on enabling geriatric content in the undergraduate medical curriculum. I did a survey of geriatric programs, of all the curricula of the then 16 medical schools and then published that paper. Soon after, geriatric medicine and geriatric psychiatry educators got together nationally, to host a jamboree for medical students who might be interested in pursuing geriatric mental health and geriatric medicine as a career. We called this jamboree Stepping Stones. So I was involved with that for two or three years in the late 90s, early 2000s. And that’s where I “stole” the name from.

The name really does fit the program well. Right from the beginning, we were thinking that we were going to build programs on top of each other.

Q: Why is the program important?

The neat thing about the program, after 20 years, is that it’s never stopped. And that’s validating; it is providing something people want and need. It is quite literally a stepping stone for scholars. In some ways, it’s a stepping stone for other programs; it is really a stepping-stone into what the CFD has to offer.

It is also a commitment for faculty and it has standards. I think it helps to have the credential upon completion of the program; it means more to someone if it results in having something you can place in your CV that you can use for promotion and CPD credits.

Stepping Stones is a program where you are doing something that is enhancing something you are already doing (i.e. teaching in the faculty of medicine).

Q: Have you seen changes in the program throughout your continuous involvement?

The structure itself has more or less stayed the same. What I’ve noticed is that it’s become even more structured and deliberate. For example, in the beginning, we didn’t have anything written out as themes as it pertained to teaching, leadership, scholarship, and advocacy.

Another important change is that the program has expanded interprofessionally. When we started the program, it attracted mostly MDs, so I have noticed the interprofessional expansion of Stepping Stones leaders. The journal club leaders are from all different areas in healthcare – this shows growth and enhancement of our Faculty’s inter-professional culture.

I have also noticed there has been quite a significant change in the topics reviewed in the Journal Club.  The diversity of workshops has also expanded way beyond what we were initially offering, allowing more reflective and intentional conversations.

Q: What are some highlights from your Stepping Stones involvement?

I remember sitting at a table at our first journal club dinner (we used to have an “end of the year” dinner with in-person journal clubs), and seeing everybody getting to know each other and reflecting on Stepping Stones, and the impact on their teaching and careers. That was a special memory. I got excited by watching other people’s excitement about the program and seeing that it was actually working the way it was intended to.

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Centre for Faculty Development
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