Serving as a Temporary Pathology Chair: “Boon” or “Boondoggle”?

David N. Bailey, Melissa R. George, David N. Howell, Donald S. Karcher, Jenny Libien, Deborah E. Powell, Fred Sanfilippo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The 2019 Association of Pathology Chairs Annual Meeting included a discussion group sponsored by the Senior Fellows Group (former chairs of academic departments of pathology who have remained active in Association of Pathology Chairs) that was focused on serving as temporary pathology chair. Such positions include “acting chair” (service while the permanent chair is on leave or temporarily indisposed), “interim chair” (service after departure of the prior chair and before a new chair is appointed), “term-limited chair” (usually one nonrenewable term of less than 5 years), and “terminal chair” (permanent chair being asked to stay until a successor is appointed). Discussion group panelists represented each of these positions and included the perspective of 3 former deans about the rationale for making such appointments. The potential benefits and risks of serving in these roles were discussed. Issues addressed included acting as “caretaker manager” or “change-agent leader”; whether such service and experience would enhance or harm one’s chances to become a permanent chair of that or another department; the effect of such service on academic productivity; the influence of department and institutional factors on the position; the range of authority provided, particularly in addressing significant problems affecting the department’s future; and the impact of time served in these various positions. The “lame-duck” effect of prolonged service as “terminal chair” was also discussed. The observations and advice provided by the panelists and audience discussion are reported and may be useful for those considering service as temporary chair in pathology as well as other academic leadership positions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAcademic Pathology
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.


  • acting chair
  • interim chair
  • temporary chair
  • term-limited chair
  • terminal chair


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