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Hospitalists who are planning on advancing their careers—particularly those working toward leadership roles—need to acquire or sharpen their skills through additional training: conferences and seminars, online courses, self-study, or university classes.

The Hospitalist spoke with several HM leaders and a physician executive coach about what makes an employee promotion material. Here are their “continuing education” suggestions for ambitious hospitalists.

Invest in Yourself

The first step in selecting a training venue is to identify your goal. What do you need to learn? How much time, effort, and money do you want to devote to the training? “There are avenues for physicians to pursue if they want to develop some leadership skills,” says Francine R. Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE, executive director of the Physician Coaching Institute in Bellevue, Wash.

One route, which requires a considerable investment, is to pursue a master’s of business administration (MBA) degree. “I don’t recommend this for most physicians. However, a lot of physicians choose this,” Dr. Gaillour says. “It will help mainly on the business side of becoming a leader, and there are several MBA programs that cater specifically to physicians, or to healthcare.”

A number of the nation’s top universities offer advanced degrees for physicians, including:

  • The University of Tennessee offers a physician executive MBA;
  • The University of California at Irvine offers a healthcare executive MBA;
  • The University of South Florida offers an executive MBA for physicians; and
  • The University of Massachusetts offers an MBA program through the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE).

For many hospitalist leaders, an MBA is not necessary. Instead, you might prefer to sign up for a certificate program or short-term course in physician leadership. “For example, here in my area, the University of Washington offers a nine-month course in medical management,” Dr. Gaillour explains. “You attend one evening a week, and it covers the essential concepts in being a leader in the medical field. The course kind of skims the surface of a number of important topics.”

A practical—and popular—way to acquire targeted training is by taking focused leadership courses and workshops offered by such organizations as SHM or ACPE.

Jumpstart Your Leadership Career

Follow these links for information on classes and conferences mentioned in this article:


The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers a complete list of MBA programs.


Sept. 14-17 in Miami



Nov. 8-11 in Peachtree, Ga.

Attendance is limited to 100 participants.


May 14 at HM09 in Chicago


Oct. 22-25 in Philadelphia

Start with SHM

As the chair of SHM’s Leadership Committee, Eric Howell, MD, FHM, SHM board member and director of Collaborative Inpatient Medicine Service in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, is closely involved in the society’s Leadership Academy. “Anybody can sign up for this—hospitalists, nonphysicians, even administrators,” he explains. “Level 1 has no prerequisites, and Level 2 requires only that you’ve completed Level 1 or something equivalent.”

The Level 1 Academy is “probably best for those looking to improve their leadership skills in whatever venue they’re in—an HM group, nursing unit, you name it,” Dr. Howell says. “You can use it to figure out what you need more help with and then branch out to an ACPE [course] or something like that—even an MBA program.”

The next Leadership Academy is Sept. 14-17 in Miami.

Physician-Specific Leadership Courses

ACPE offers a wealth of physician leadership education options, including live and online courses. The core curriculum includes courses that cover the basics of negotiation, managing physicians, finance, and more. ACPE also offers courses that count toward four different medical management degrees, including an MBA.

“The ACPE is probably the No. 1 resource for physicians who want to develop skills in leadership,” says Dr. Gaillour, who is an ACPE fellow. “Their core courses are valuable, as well as fun and interesting. Beyond the basics, you can go as deep as you want in a specific area. About one-third of their curriculum is newer topics for more experienced physicians.”

Dr. Howell says ACPE courses “get a lot of traction among the leadership [committee]. They have courses relevant to hospitalists and hospital leaders.”

Patience Agborbesong, MD, has completed several ACPE courses. Currently an assistant professor as well as the medical director of the hospitalist program at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., Dr. Agborbesong first discovered ACPE courses as a newly promoted HM group director. “I took ‘Managing Physician Performance,’ a Web-based class with an actual instructor,” she says. “That course was particularly helpful to me. It covered interviewing job candidates, giving feedback and performance reviews, and dealing with disruptive individuals.”

One difference between SHM’s Leadership Academy and ACPE courses is class makeup. SHM’s Academy attracts a hospitalist crowd; physicians from all specialties attend ACPE courses. “I like the SHM Leadership Academy because it focuses on the hospital environment,” Dr. Agborbesong says, “but the ACPE is good, too, because I like to know how other worlds work—like private practice.”

Teach the Teacher

For academic hospitalists, a whole subset of specialized training exists, including the new Academic Hospitalist Academy. Co-sponsored by SHM, the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM), and the Association of Chiefs of General Internal Medicine (ACGIM), the academy will teach the practical knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to succeed as an academic hospitalist.

“The first one will take place in November,” says Jeffrey Wiese, MD, FACP, FHM, SHM board member and associate professor of medicine at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, as well as associate chairman of medicine and director of the Tulane Internal Medicine Residency Program. The four-day course “covers teaching, working on research, and generally putting together a portfolio of academic work. It will also include some education on quality, knowing that academic hospitalists do a lot of research on this.”

Dr. Weise also recommends the Teaching Hospital Educators (THE) Course: “What Clinical Teachers in Hospital Medicine Need to Know.” It is offered as a pre-course at HM09 this month in Chicago. It debuted at the 2008 annual meeting and drew rave reviews, Dr. Wiese says. “This is a one-day course that focuses on the teaching component of being an academic hospitalist,” he says.

In-House Opportunities

Don’t overlook training opportunities offered by your group or institution, as they can help you save on travel and registration costs. “Investing yourself in whatever you have available is essential,” Dr. Howell stresses. “Most organizations have some leadership training, or some mentorship program. Even if it’s something like a course on dealing with difficult people offered by your human resources department, this is a great place to start, especially for those hospitalists just beginning to think about leadership.”

A side benefit of taking training offered by your employer is that you’ll position yourself for further training at your organization’s expense: “Many groups are willing to invest in their leaders, and I think they would give you CME money for leadership training … if you’ve demonstrated your interest by going to those free [in-house] courses, or taken it upon yourself to take a community college class or an online course,” Dr. Howell says. “This shows you’re ready to invest in yourself.”

Dr. Agborbesong helped compile a list of leadership training resources, which is available on SHM’s Web site at TH

Jane Jerrard is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She also writes Public Policy for The Hospitalist.

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