The Application

The first thing is to make sure it is OK with your division chief. Everything has to go through him or her, and you will need their support and advice to help push this through, particularly if there are potential issues. I can also advise, so feel free to reach out to me (Mark de Caestecker), but at the end of the day it is your division chief who will have to make the final determination that you are ready. Lastly, because the process takes about 12 months to complete, while exceptions can be made on occasion and with approval from your division chief and chair, it is recommended that you submit your promotion package at least a year before the end of your tenure clock.

Ok, next: here is the check list of the things you will need to prepare.


1) The CV should be formatted according to the requirements for the school of medicine. Here is the description in case you haven't seen it before.

2) The Chair's recommendation letter. Basically you have to prepare the first draft of this, which is then edited, usually through an iterative process, with your division chief, before being sent on to the chair for signature. There are specific topics that need to be covered so pay attention to the format, and be prepared to spend some time on this. I think it will be the most difficult part of the process for you.

3) Complete the critical references form. For this you need to identify five references that you think represent your most significant contributions. If you are not first or senior author, specify the role played by the candidate in the work described by these key publications. Also, provide reprints.

4) Complete a documentation of teaching form. Note: this is different from the rest of the school of medicine is that you do not have to complete the on-line educator portfolio (which is a huge pain!).

5) List of 8-10 professional references with contact info. These cannot be anyone you have published with, had a grant with, was mentored by, or that you mentored…and you are not supposed to reach out to the to ask them, just provide their names. If you have published papers as part of large consortia, it is possible you may be able to include names of referees you have published with. However, I suggest you email Anne McBryde, who is the DOM administrator for the promotions committee: she will know what works and what will not. The most effective evaluation letters are from nationally recognized leaders in the relevant area of research from individuals that must be at least a rank above you, usually full professors, and/or division chiefs, and from institutions of similar stature to Vanderbilt. The promotions committee has to obtain at least five reference letters, so they ask for more to make sure enough are obtained. And be careful who you select. As I mentioned, you cannot reach out to them to find out if they will write you a good letter, and most referees will not write a letter if they have a negative opinion about you. However, if a referee does write something negative about you, that letter is entered into the record and cannot be removed from consideration. Depending on what they write, this may have a negative impact on your promotion. With that said, it is pretty unusual to see this, but it does occasionally happen.

6) Lastly, you need to provide a list of  5-8 teaching references with contact info. This can be a trainee you mentored in lab, taught in class, was on their thesis committee…but should not be current trainee. The promotions committee has to obtain at least three reference letters, so they ask for more to make sure enough are obtained. And again, be careful who you select.

The Process

As I mentioned, the process takes time. I would leave one to two months to put your package together as this is an iterative process with back and forth with your division chief, and an additional ten to twelve months for the actual review. First there is the initial review and collection of letters of recommendation by the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (COAP) in the DOM: this is a two step process. First with review of the package. If this is approved, the committee requests teaching and academic letters of recommendation. When at least three teaching and five academic letters are received, the committee votes on whether to advance the application to the school of medicine. There are series of committee reviews and approvals are required, ending with final approval by the university board of trust. This link summarizes the steps involved.


The DOM has a team in place to help faculty with preparing their tenure packages (including the education portfolio). If you are interested in finding out more, you can reach out to Morgan Hamilton, Associate Program manager for the DOM, for more information (

Good luck!