Prior to his work with Project HOPE, he served as executive vice president of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and CEO of the American Medical Association (AMA), a job he left in 2011 after a decade of service. “[The AMA is] a large-scale operation where you have to employ all of the tools that you learn in business school,” said Dr. Maves. At the AMA, Dr. Maves communicated the needs and concerns of 220,000 physician members to policy makers on Capitol Hill. “For much of the time I was at the academy and at the AMA, I used to tell people that a big part of my job was being a translator,” said Dr. Maves. In other words, he translated the language of business and politics for physicians and otolaryngologists, while also taking the concerns of doctors and putting them into language politicians would understand.
Explore This IssueFebruary 2013
In a business environment, be prepared for critics, he said. One way to prepare for the inevitable politics of an executive post is to watch the television show “Survivor,” where people get voted off the island week after week, he added. “You need to get a much tougher skin than we have as physicians.”
Look Beyond the Individual
Robert Miller, MD, currently the executive director of the American Board of Otolaryngology, said the role of an executive demands dedication to the overall organization or company, which often means a big shift in priorities and a focus on common goals.
“I think it’s important that you get along with people and that you are willing to put the organization’s goals and missions above your own personal goals,” he added. “When you’re practicing medicine, your responsibility is to that patient in front of you, [to] do the best you can for that patient. As an executive, your responsibility is to do what’s best for the organization.” Doctors tend to look at issues from a medical perspective, while business people look with an eye to policy, finances and efficiency, he said.
Dr. Miller served as the otolaryngology department chair at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he discovered an affinity for administration that led him to pursue his MBA and ultimately become vice-chancellor of the medical center. “I found myself more and more attracted to administrative positions,” he said. He gave up clinical practice for the role of an executive in 1999 and said he misses the patient interaction and teaching more than he does the surgery. “As a cancer surgeon, you really do get to know patients and have an impact on their lives and their families’ lives,” he said.