Dr. Miller advises otolaryngologists considering the physician executive route to get involved with a local hospital, try out leadership roles and possibly take a business course. But, he said, becoming an executive might not be the right path for everyone. “The stresses are somewhat different—dealing with employees, dealing with issues beyond just the patient in front of you. Every job has its stresses; they’re just different. Maybe that’s part of how you decide what it is you want to do: What kind of stress do you like?”
Explore This IssueFebruary 2013
Running a large organization as a physician executive requires hard work and determination, but it’s also great fun, said Michael M.E. Johns, MD, who has served as chancellor at Atlanta’s Emory University and as executive vice president for health affairs and head of the university’s Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center.
“If you can move an organization forward and make it successful or keep it being successful, there’s a lot of satisfaction to it,” said Dr. Johns. “It’s a lot of hard work…[and you had] better enjoy solving problems,” because that’s what a good portion of the job of a physician executive entails, he added.
Dr. Johns earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School, where he also completed his residency. Before his stint at Emory, he held the position of dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and vice president of the medical faculty at Johns Hopkins University. The opportunity to serve as dean arose from Dr. Johns’ earlier work at the university but was not a specific goal he set out to achieve, he said. And when it arrived, it was not so much a profound moment as it was an obvious choice of “why not?” he recalled. “Nobody just makes a crack decision and says I think I’ll leave medicine and become the dean at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. These are evolutionary events,” he said. “I moved into the vice dean job, and the opportunity to be dean looked interesting and challenging, and of course it’s a distinct honor as well. So, I said, ‘I’ll do it.’”
People don’t become leaders by just raising a hand and proclaiming the desire, he said. The top person helps and guides employees and holds everyone accountable to the organization. “You better have a vision for where you want to go. You’ve got to have a plan that gets you there. You have fiduciary responsibility for the organization, and you’ve got to inspire people.