Can We Create Medical Leaders?


In response to yesterday’s post on the USF Health SELECT program for training physician leaders, Wes Fisher, veteran blogger and cardiologist had this comment:

“…No doubt there will be some real thought-leaders coming from the med school classes of the future, but the real innovators of tomorrow will come from those who have experienced the front lines of health care first-hand, not a sheltered group of “thought-leaders” from a pre-formulated personality profile or EQ index.”

I initially shared some of Wes’ thinking when I first read about USF’s SELECT program.  And I wondered: Can we really create medical leaders?  Or does leadership simply appear as an act of God?  Those who know much more than I have suggested that leadership is something we learn – a skill, not a trait.  It requires some element of mentorship and feedback.  Admittedly there are those who embody skill and personality sets that make them more likely to succeed in the capacity of leadership.

And if we assume that medical leadership can be taught, the next question may be how best to teach and cultivate those skills.  I agree with Wes that these lessons are best learned on the front lines of medicine. To create the map for others to follow requires a tight understanding of the terrain. I’ve encountered too many teachers in my past who have been charged with teaching me something that they themselves have either never done or done with any measurable success.  Only proven leaders can teach and foster the skills of leadership.  The onus is on USF Health to see to it that the experience and mentoring of this student panel goes beyond the shelter of the ivory tower – beyond management and toward true leadership.

While I consider myself a skeptic, I have to concede that USF Health’s program does represent a degree of innovation in education.  Their process may not be there this year or next, but I suspect with the right minds on board it could achieve its intended goal.  For too long medical schools have created clinical cogs for a broken system, many graduates unwilling to look beyond their individual, short-term needs.  Going forward our system of education needs to change to meet the demands of an evolving healthcare system.  Admittedly, cultivating leaders is only one facet but it’s worth a go.

All of this has made me think a little more about how we need to prepare our next generation of physicians.  More on this later.

For more great thinking you can follow Wes on his blog, Dr. Wes.