Most physicians are comfortable in leadership roles; after all, physicians take the lead with patients during office hours or in surgery every day. But some take their leadership role to the next level, becoming medical school department chairs or deans, presidents of medical societies, and even hospital CEOs. This can be beneficial all around in the delivery of healthcare in America today.
Explore this issue:February 2018
“Physicians must demonstrate by example their leadership skills in leading the transformation of healthcare in achieving value-based medicine,” said Bob Seligson, board member of the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group that seeks to empower physicians to lead in the delivery of high-quality, cost-efficient healthcare. And many physician leaders see that transformation happening before their eyes.
“I think more physicians are interested in hospital leadership and getting degrees in business and health administration so they can take on leadership roles, which I think is really important,” said Michael G. Stewart, MD, MPH, professor and chairman of the department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, otolaryngologist-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and editor-in-chief of The Laryngoscope. Dr. Stewart, who also serves as vice dean of the Medical College, sees it as a good thing that more physicians seem to be getting business degrees and taking on health administration roles. Now, a lot of medical institutions have created positions for a vice chancellor or executive vice president of health affairs or medical affairs and, typically ,this person is a physician who sets the overall direction for the healthcare system and to whom the hospital president, dean of the medical school, nursing school, and school of public health all report. “That’s the direction that more medical centers are taking and some have actually changed explicitly to that model in the last 20 years, Dr. Stewart says. “It makes a better healthcare system.” According to an IZA Institute of Labor Economics study in Germany, physician-run hospitals in three disciplinary fields are positioned 25% higher in the US News and World Report‘s Best Hospitals rankings.
Opportunities abound in three tracks of physician leadership—hospitals, medical societies, and medical schools—though those tracks may not always be clear, despite the fact that some physicians manage to lead in all three. Some of these physicians know they want more leadership responsibilities as they grow in their careers and plot a course. Others who never considered becoming administrators fall into these roles when someone asks them to step up. Dr. Stewart, whose goals were all previously in academics—clinical research and creating new outcomes and tools—falls into the latter category. At 37 years old and just five years into his career as a junior faculty member at Baylor College of Medicine, he was invited to take on the newly created position of assistant dean of clinical affairs.