For Matthew Tuck, MD, MEd, FACP, associate section chief for hospital medicine at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Washington, leadership is something that hospitalists can and should be learning at every opportunity.
Some of the best insights about effective leadership, teamwork, and process improvement come from the business world and have been slower to infiltrate into hospital settings and hospitalist groups, he says. But Dr. Tuck has tried to take advantage of numerous opportunities for leadership development in his own career.
He has been a hospitalist since 2010 and is part of a group of 13 physicians, all of whom carry clinical, teaching, and research responsibilities while pursuing a variety of education, quality improvement, and performance improvement topics.
“My chair has been generous about giving me time to do teaching and research and to pursue opportunities for career development,” he said. The Washington VAMC works with four affiliate medical schools in the area, and its six daily hospital medicine services are all 100% teaching services with assigned residents and interns.
Dr. Tuck divides his professional time roughly one-third each between clinical – seeing patients 5 months a year on a consultative or inpatient basis with resident teams; administrative in a variety of roles; and research. He has academic appointments at the George Washington University (GWU) School of Medicine and at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. He developed the coursework for teaching evidence-based medicine to first- and second-year medical students at GWU.
He is also part of a large research consortium with five sites and $7.5 million in funding over 5 years from NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to study how genetic information from African American patients can predict their response to cardiovascular medications. He serves as the study’s site Principal Investigator at the VAMC.
Opportunities to advance his leadership skills have included the VA’s Aspiring Leaders Program and Leadership Development Mentoring Program, which teach leadership skills on topical subjects such as teaching, communications skills, and finance. The Master Teacher Leadership Development Program for medical faculty at GWU, where he attended medical school and did his internship and residency, offers six intensive, classroom-based 8-week courses over a 1-year period. They cover various topical subjects with faculty from the business world teaching principles of leadership. The program includes a mentoring action plan for participants and leads to a graduate certificate in leadership development from GWU’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the end of the year’s studies.
Dr. Tuck credits completing this kind of coursework for his current position of leadership in the VA and he tries to share what he has learned with the medical students he teaches.
“When I was starting out as a physician, I never received training in how to lead a team. I found myself trying to get everything done for my patients while teaching my learners, and I really struggled for the first couple of years to manage these competing demands on my time,” he said.
Now, on the first day of a new clinical rotation, he meets one-on-one with his residents to set out goals and expectations. “I say: ‘This is how I want rounds to be run. What are your expectations?’ That way we make sure we’re collaborating as a team. I don’t know that medical school prepares you for this kind of teamwork. Unless you bring a background in business, you can really struggle.”