Looking back, I may not have taken the most obvious route to becoming Chief Medical Officer. But the journey was fairly sequential. And there were several resources that helped me to feel confident as a physician leader.
There is more need today than ever for skilled physician leaders. There are several specific steps that hopeful executives can take to enhance their competencies. But each physician will need to determine his or her own path based on his or her circumstances.
When trying to acquire these skills, it is best to follow Steven Covey’s admonition: “Start with the end in mind.”
Resources for the Emerging Physician Leader
Here are some resources that I found very helpful while I pursued my dream to become a physician hospital executive.
Join Pertinent Associations
Join organizations that provide support, education and networking. While I was actively working as a hospital CMO, I was a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). It provided some very good resources, including an annual conference to attend.
Since my hospital belonged to the American Hospital Association, I had access to its resources.
The dominant physician-led organization is the American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL). I joined the organization in 1994 and have been a member ever since. In addition to conferences, workshops, and on-line activities, it publishes a monthly journal and hosts a job board.
Consider an Advanced Degree
Obtaining an advanced degree such as an MHA, MMM or MBA is not required. But it can be quite helpful for developing new management and leadership skills. In 1993, I completed a master's degree in public health, with a focus on occupational medicine. At the time, I was working as part-time medical director for an occupational health clinic.
Had I joined the AAPL before starting the MPH, and fully considered my long-term goals, I may have chosen to pursue an executive MBA or MHA. The MPH has been useful, nonetheless, in my work in quality, safety and population health initiatives.
Although it is not an advanced degree, the Certified Physician Executive (CPE) designation is evidence of competence in many physician leadership skills. It can be obtained by those with or without an advanced business degree through the Certifying Commission in Medical Management.
Get Training in Business and Management
Formal training relevant to the physician leader can be obtained through workshops, conferences and on-line programs. The organizations mentioned above all provide extensive education in business and management topics. If you are on staff at a hospital, you should be able to access some of the AHA programs. If employed, even part-time, by a hospital or other healthcare organization, you can probably access the ACHE conferences and workshops.
I attended many conferences organized by the AHA and ACHE over the years.
I also recall attending training provided by the Advisory Board, the Studor Group, Press Ganey, and the Greeley Company. Also, specialty societies, state medical associations and the American Medical Association offer additional learning opportunities for the emerging physician leader.
The additional benefit of attending AAPL courses and workshops, including on-line courses, is that many of them count toward CPE certification.
Read Books, Journals and Blogs
There are many good books to read on the subject. Some are written by physicians such as Atule Gewande, some are about physicians leadership (by Mark Hertling). Most of them address general business and leadership topics (by experts like Jim Collins, Peter Lencioni, Susan Scott and Sean Covey).
There are several blogs devoted to leadership. This is a resource that was not available to me when I began my career journey into the executive realm.
I like blogs because they are contemporaneous, and often more focused and brief than a journal article. Also, they often allow for interaction with the blog author or other readers through the Comments section.
There are some great blogs devoted to leadership that provide free content and engagement with others interested in leadership, like MichaelHyatt.com, JohnMaxwell.com and SkipPrichard.com. I have been unable to find any blogs written for the physician leader that don't require membership in a parent organization like the AHA or ACHE.
Volunteer Your Services
A good way to get experience is to lead hospital based teams, and participate in professional society committees and nonprofit boards. At my hospital, I volunteered to work on the CME Committee. That led to being asked to join the Illinois State Medical Society's Committee on CME Accreditation. I later served as chair for that committee for five years. In that role, I attended the ISMS Board meetings.
Work on the Committee on CME Accreditation led to working as a CME surveyor and appointment to one of the Accreditation Council for CME's subcommittees.
In later years, I joined the local hospice board of directors, where I now serve as Vice President and President Elect. I have also served as a member and chair of our local health department board.
All of these experiences have given me an opportunity to set agendas, lead meetings, participate in strategic planning and review financial statements.
All of these experiences have helped me to hone my business and management skills over the years.
Take the Plunge
Once you have some education and experience, you will be ready to seek that full- or part-time job as a physician executive and leader. You will never be fully prepared. It is like marriage, the only preparation for being a physician leader, is to become a physician leader.
Now, take a deep breath and jump in. Our profession and our patients need you.
Have you found any blogs devoted to physician leadership? If so, please mention them in the Comments Section.
Don't forget to Subscribe to Future Posts.
And feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org