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2013 Dean’s Award: Frank A. Sloan

April 19, 2013
Frank Sloan

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Frank Sloan, the J. Alexander McMahon Professor of Health Policy and Management and Professor of Economics received a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University and an A.B. in Economics from Oberlin College. He joined the Duke faculty in 1993 and has secondary faculty appointments in the Fuqua School of Business, Sanford School of Public Policy, School of Nursing, and Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Sloan also directed the Duke Center for Health Policy, Law and Management from 1998 to 2004. Before joining the faculty at Duke in July 1993, he was a research economist at the Rand Corporation and served on the faculties of the University of Florida and Vanderbilt University. His current research interests include alcohol use and smoking prevention, long-term care, medical malpractice, and cost-effectiveness analyses of medical technologies. He also has a long-standing interest in hospitals, including the regulation of hospitals, health care financing, and health manpower.

Professor Sloan's students and colleagues, both past and present, attest to the numerous ways he has influenced their lives and careers. The breadth of his mentoring encompasses undergraduate students, M.A. students, Ph.D. students, and former students and is deeply rooted in his vast experience in both academia and the public sector. As one of his nominators explains, "Professor Sloan has been a constant and assertive source of support and wisdom to hundreds of students during his time at Duke. He has mentored undergraduates in their honors research and consistently employed them in his growing research lab; he has overseen numerous Ph.D. dissertations and M.A. research projects and was an integral part of the faculty connections made with participants in the American Economic Association Summer Program for students largely from minority-serving institutions."

Despite his numerous commitments, Professor Sloan's attention to the individual is unwavering, as one student nominator says, "He is always generous with his time and supportive of students in many different ways, whether it be helping them understand research papers, finding dissertation topics, preparing for the job market or navigating careers. He keeps in touch with students even after they have finished his courses or graduated." This observation is seconded by a former student, who states that "Dr. Sloan is ALWAYS there for his students. Given that he is such an accomplished and prominent economist, when I first enrolled in one of his classes I expected him to be quite short on time. I quickly learned that he was willing to devote an incredible amount of time to his students." Another notes that "Dr. Sloan consistently pushed me to do my best. When his office schedule was busy, Dr. Sloan would schedule evening meetings with me at a local coffee shop. His availability outside of typical office hours played a substantial role in helping me stay on track with my dissertation research and job market paper."  Students appreciate his forthright style in such meetings, one noting that "Dr. Sloan is the type of professor who tells you what you need to hear even though that may sometimes not be what you want to hear; this quality was very valuable to me both in terms of helping me to improve my dissertation and preparing me for job interviews."

Professor Sloan encourages the professional development of his students through involving them in project work and teaching them successful presentation skills. One nominator notes that "Each meeting students from the class would present papers from the reading list. Professor Sloan's feedback on presentations of the academic literature, either directed at myself or my classmates, was valuable in developing a confident and clear presentation style," adding that "Economic research is so often technical and it is critical to communicate these ideas effectively and concisely." Dr. Sloan is also quick to involve students in research, as one of his students describes "When I began to work with Professor Sloan on a project funded by one of his research grants, he immediately gave me the opportunity to lead a project under his guidance. Throughout my work he has provided ample advice and assistance and has always been available to answer questions via email or in person." His knowledge of the profession also enables him to consult with students on careers that may or may not be strictly academic. One student notes that "Dr. Sloan is always eager to use his experience and wisdom to help students plan their academic futures," while another student states that "among several different advisors, he has provided the strongest encouragement for my rather unconventional academic and career goals." This is evidence of what another student describes as Dr. Sloan's "ability to discover his students' talents and point them in the right direction," using his awareness of their strengths to design projects that will benefit them and introducing them to the appropriate scholars for their areas of interest.

The lasting impact that Professor Sloan has on his students may be summed up best in a comment from a current student: "Dr. Sloan cares about his students not only in regard to their academic performance, but also their lifelong career goals and the health of their heart and soul. He teaches students the meaning of being an economist, that is, to help and improve society, rather than just an academic pursuit. He teaches us to be honest, responsible, and reliable. In other words, he is not only my professor, he is my role model."