Learn to Lead

Mary Jo Gorman, MD, MBA

Everyone has it within his power to say, this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow.— Louis L’Amour

Professional advancement means different things to different people. For some, it is important to be the leader of their medical group—whether it is a hospital group or a private practice. For others, it means being associate professor or department chair. And, for a few, it will mean becoming the chief executive officer of a hospital or healthcare company. Much of this comes down to trying to make a difference to the patients and other people around us, as well as trying to bring about improvements in healthcare.

To many physicians, trying to make a difference has been limited to making sure we are doing a good job—diagnostically, pharmacologically, and emotionally—for our individual patients. However, as we become adept at serving the individual patient, we often feel a need to take on more challenges. Medical staff leadership is one way to affect the care of many by directing the actions of the group.

Healthcare is a large component of our country’s economy, and this is not likely to change. In addition, it is an area with many challenges: the aging population, the uninsured population, new pharmaceutical developments, and medical device discoveries. There will be a continued demand for individuals who can understand this very complex intersection of business and medicine.

Historically, the chief executive officer of a hospital or integrated system has been a non-medical person with business expertise in healthcare. Hospitalists may fill this role more and more in the future. Hospitals are increasingly recognizing that the expertise of committed physician partners is critical to their success.

Fill in the Gaps and Offer Your Help

How many times have we heard our colleagues complain that “the problems never change and nothing gets done around here”? No doubt, change is tough, but taking a role in your department or at your hospital is a way to start. Many hospitalists are filling in the leadership gaps as other specialists move to outpatient centers or into the office. Posts that have traditionally been held by cardiology or urology are changing.

Give some thought to where you might help out. A commitment to something as simple as the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee can lead to changes for all the patients as well as get you started on your new career path. Every chief of staff and vice president of medical affairs is looking for volunteers who are interested in projects and can follow through. This applies to department chairmen as well. Given the commitment we all have to our patients and our lives, the offer of help for even just one project is a breath of fresh air to those who have the responsibility for the group or department. Depending on your area of interest—patient safety, quality improvement, patient or medical student education, or process improvement—a project can be created that furthers your institution and addresses your interests.

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