The Vanderbilt program, which launched in 2009, is a four-year iterative program that offers otolaryngology residents formal study in four areas: military training, public speaking, a micro master’s in business administration, and a capstone final project focusing on community health prevention. The program, the only one of its kind for otolaryngology residents and just one of a handful of residency programs to incorporate leadership skills into any medical specialty, is particularly valid during what Dr. Eavey calls a time of “turbulence” in national health systems, including the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act, the move toward value-based care over volume-based care, mergers of health systems and payers, the growth of team care, and many other unpredictable changes. Strong leadership among physicians can help navigate colleagues through these and other changes in the field.
“In healthcare right now, you’re either frightened that the sky is falling in, or you feel that the time is incredibly exciting,” said Dr. Eavey. “The patient before us is not just one suffering individual; the patient also is the entire suffering healthcare system. This is the first time in my career to have the opportunity to make substantial changes in how we practice medicine. Knowing what to prioritize, when to push or not push so hard, how to persuade or encourage—using all the skills in the leadership toolbox. We are now in a turbulent situation, and we need these skills because of the Affordable Healthcare Act.”
Historically, residents “are task trained to cut out tissue and look at audiograms in people who have already become ill,” said Dr. Eavey. “We should be trying to prevent populations of people from getting sick in the first place. We are just whetting the whistles of residents at the beginning of their careers so that they can decide if they wish to further devote themselves to serious training in leadership as some already do for advanced clinical training in fellowships.”