Dr. Freischlag with Dr. Angela
Kokkosis, assistant professor
of surgery at StonyBrook, who
has shadowed Dr. Freischlag
PROFILES IN SURGICAL RESEARCH
not pay attention to it, and you will eat it up doing silly
things because it’s hard to write a grant, and it’s hard
to do research. You need to talk to your assistant, if
you have one, or look at your electronic calendar and
block off time.
You have to decide how you are best suited when it
comes to time. I’m a morning person, so I’m not very
effective between 3:00 and 6:00 pm. When I’m writing
something, I tend to be creative for about an hour. I
can’t write a grant for five straight hours. Learn how
you can produce things and how much time you need
to do things. I do a lot of work on planes. When you’re
sitting on a plane, no one bothers you, and you can
actually do creative work and think.
Every year, I sit down and try to decide what kind
of papers I am going to write and what abstracts I am
going to submit for the year. What kinds of projects do
I have my team working on? You should have a strategy each year for a couple of clinical papers, a couple
of research papers, the grants you need to write, and
all of the corresponding deadlines. Delegate anything
you can, such as filling out forms or creating presentation slides—your assistant can complete these tasks.
Finally, you have to reassess your progress. You
need to have a weekly lab meeting, and you need to
attend that meeting. If you’re doing research of any
kind, that actually keeps you on track. People report
back, you know where everything stands, and you give
instructions and tasks to make sure people understand
what they need to do to help you.
The other thing we typically don’t appreciate, when
it comes to time management, is that you need to step
away from the work. Trying to work all weekend or
trying to write a grant all night and never giving
yourself a day off or a break actually makes you less
productive. There’s research showing that if you get
no sleep and you work constantly, you are less productive than if you take some time off, get a good night’s
sleep, and go forward. When you go run or exercise,
think about a big idea or big image, then come back
and do it. But I think stepping away is a really important way to be successful.
You’ve talked about your relationships with other
co-investigators or with your team members in
your lab. I’m assuming that those relationships
have presented some challenges from time to
time. Can you give an example where you struggled and how you handled that?
When I had my son, Taylor, in Milwaukee, I took 11
weeks of maternity leave. When I returned, I found that
my name had been left off a paper, which I thought was
because I was gone for a few weeks. I was just really
shocked that they submitted it without my name on it.
I struggled a lot because I had never had that happen
before because I talk about that right up front—who’s
the first author, who’s the senior, who’s in the middle,
who’s presenting. I fretted for a couple months because
I felt it was so unfair. It turned out when I finally talked
to my boss, they simply had forgotten. My boss said,
“Oh my God, you weren’t here. We forgot,” and so
they added my name. That taught me that determining authorship up front is so important, and if you find
that something doesn’t look right, address it as soon as
possible versus having consternation about it.
I also have had some students in the lab who never
show up. If you have people who don’t do their work,
I would cut them off quickly. If you find after a month
that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to, instead
of keeping them around for months, I would say, “This
isn’t working out for us, and maybe you need to find
another project.” That’s been my frustration, too, in
terms of giving people two or three chances.
I’ve never had anybody plagiarize. I have overseen
others who have had some issues with plagiarism.
Plagiarism tends to be on silly things. You give somebody a book chapter or something smaller to write.
They don’t have enough time, so they go lift parts
from others. I make it very clear that they can’t do
that, and I make sure I read even the smaller things
that I have people do. Make sure you pay attention to
something that’s small as much as you do for a really