“Most hospitals and medical schools are happy to have people volunteer for management committees; of course, there’s not a lot of pay associated with it,” said Paul Levine, MD, Robert W. Cantrell Professor and chair of otolaryngology at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlotttesville. “It requires real interest in the operation of the institution. Once you get involved you’re like a charity, you get a thousand requests. But when you participate, you learn more about how the clock ticks.”
Explore this issue:November 2010
Similarly, a clinician can garner more practical experience with things like budgets, team building and business planning by getting involved in the administration of one or more specialty societies.
“You can start out as a council member, then become an officer,” Dr. Levine said. “Leadership isn’t limited to the institution at which you work. Any organizational role can help prepare you for an administrative career if it allows you to learn how to make decisions, handle systems efficiently, let people speak up and learn how to make everyone believe they’ve had input, even if the decision you make isn’t in line with what a particular individual wanted.”
It may be easier to get such exposure in an otolaryngology department, where the chair always needs help.
“We have the same amount of work to take on as internal medicine, but we often have fewer people to do it,” Dr. Levine said. “That’s a wonderful place to foster leadership skills: You’re in a small group, and you know your own faculty. Your chair, who has more exposure in the system, will then likely submit your name when there are activities to do on a wider basis.”
What if your goals are loftier, like medical school dean or hospital CEO? “That requires high-level skills in areas like fiscal management which are difficult to acquire informally; you have to seriously educate yourself on the business side, because it really is a shift in careers,” Dr. Levine said.
A number of institutions have graduate business education programs specifically designed for physicians. MBA programs, “mini-MBAs” (short programs that provide an overview of essential management skills, but don’t grant a full MBA degree), and other related coursework can often be pursued online or in intensive short courses. A few examples:
- The American College of Physician Executives (in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, University of Southern California and Carnegie Mellon): acpe.org
- The Alliance for Medical Management Education at the University of Texas: http://amme.utdallas.edu/
- Duke’s Health Sector Management programs: fuqua.duke.edu/programs/duke_mba/health_sector_management/
- Yale’s Healthcare Executive MBA program: http://mbae.som.yale.edu/
There is also Physician Boot Camp, a “comprehensive orientation to physician leadership in hospitals and health systems,” run by a division of the Advisory Board Company (physicianbootcamp.com).
Some physicians pursue career coaching when making this kind of major shift.