Take the Lead as a Physician

June 5, 2017

One of the fundamental facets of being a physician is continual learning. Shouldn’t we also pursue this in other areas, especially leadership?

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"60294","attributes":{"alt":"Lightbulb","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_3719145933825","media_crop_h":"212","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"7612","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"244","media_crop_scale_w":"300","media_crop_w":"261","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"font-size: 13.008px; float: right; height: 200px; width: 246px;","title":"Sensay/Shutterstock","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]We’re all leaders-not just those who are medical directors or department chairs. We lead every day in our clinics, when we work with trainees, and when we lead studies.

One of the most humbling and exciting opportunities I’ve been afforded was being selected as a UCSD Health Leadership Academy Scholar. How this occurred was serendipitous. . . a colleague I was meeting with happened to mentioned this opportunity and encouraged me to apply. We just completed half of the sessions in this year-long experience, and I wanted to reflect on some of what I’ve learned so far.

We need to change in medicine. How? Sharpening our skills is one of multiple, crucial avenues.

One a month, a group of 35 individuals from UCSD and the Navy meet at UCSD Extension. This diverse group includes a nurse, dietitian, pharmacist, financial analysts, and physicians. From the CEO of UC San Diego Health, Patty Maysent, to one of the authors of the book, Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan, we hear their thoughts on leadership, communications, health care policy, and management. We also ask questions, and break into small groups to do hands-on, table-top exercises and discussions.

What have I gleaned from all of this so far?

1. There are no easy answers.

How do we continue to provide the finest care to our patients possible, while still excelling at research and teaching? How do we lead up-that is, get our supervisors on board? As with medicine, and life in general, it’s challenging. This experience or any other workshop, conference, or presentation, doesn’t offer ready-made solutions. But, we must keep trying. We should learn tools that we can apply on Monday morning, continue the conversation, share best practices, and develop new ideas.

2. Stepping outside of my comfort zone is challenging, but interesting!

One of the fundamental facets of being a physician is continual learning. Shouldn’t we also pursue this in other areas, especially leadership? You can’t learn this from merely reading, or in a few days of a seminar, although these are important starts. I can’t express adequately how much I’ve learned in 5 sessions, from finances to working to change the culture. And these sessions and readings are only the beginning

3. Learning from each other.

As Tom Gehring and Leslie Bruce, the co-founders of the HLA, remind us, we’re not only learning from others, we’re learning from each other. I’ve found that many of the challenges we face-whether it’s navigating through our days with EHRs, or dealing with appointment access issues-are similar We’re also each assigned to an individual who’s an alumnus from a prior HLA cohort. Gerry Manecke, MD, is mine. Meeting with him once a month has been as invaluable as it has been enjoyable. At our most recent session, he started by observing how he found that great work springs from passion and joy-an insight we all need to hear and apply. We discussed a diabetes research project challenge I’ve been facing. He listened intently, and we explored possible strategies.

I’ll update you after this program ends this December, with a capstone project on addressing a challenge.