Is Physician Leadership Right for You?

Cheryl Pegus, MD, MPH


November 28, 2016

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Hi. I'm Cheryl Pegus, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Clinical Innovation at New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center. Today I'd like to talk about physician leadership.

Of the 6500 hospitals in the United States, only about 5% of them are led by physicians. If you look at healthcare organizations and associations, only a few of them are led by physicians. The healthcare environment has changed, however, and physician expertise and leadership are required. We now talk about clinical outcomes and patient safety. We also look at readmissions and transitions of care. We look at quality of care. These are all areas that require physician expertise and leadership. We now do a lot with electronic medical records. We look at technology. We've broadened our care teams to include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and pharmacists. As you look at this level of collaboration, having physician leadership begins to take on more importance.

Many physicians start their careers knowing that they'd like to take leadership roles. These are people who we see getting combined MD/MBA or MD/MPH degrees. There are those who are within their career and decide to go back to school, so they go to graduate medical education programs or take specialized courses being offered throughout the country. These are important programs. They are necessary to add skills and are very important as we look at the future of physician leadership.

Different groups also play a role in healthcare, and as you become a physician leader, it's important to not only interface with them but to understand their roles and responsibilities as you build your clinical teams. Here are some tips for those who are thinking of physician leadership roles:

  1. Go ahead and get the training and additional education. You'll learn a lot about predictive modeling, data analytics, reimbursement, clinical trials, regulation, and the roles of different people on a team that are necessary for success and improving clinical care.

  2. Join organizations or associations that allow you to see the work of colleagues whom you will need going forward. There are local and national organizations that you can participate in.

  3. Find a good mentor—someone who can not only provide advice and guidance but also constructive criticism. Many of us don't spend time speaking to our mentors. Ask them, "How did you get where you are? What did you do? Who did you look to for support? What's the timeframe for doing this?" And then listen to the feedback and constructive criticism. Make those changes and, again, ask for feedback. You can develop your network today, and it can be a network that supports you throughout your career.

  4. Learn how to collaborate and lead as a team. We all play an important role in a team. As a physician leader, it is important that you not think of you, the individual, but think of the important role that every member of the team brings to the table. You will find that you're able to not only innovate and implement faster, but your execution will really exemplify the diversity of the team that you've brought together.

  5. Never forget that you're a physician. Remember the patients we take care of, the families we comfort, and the care we provide—not only to our patients but to our colleagues as well. It is a great profession that we are in. As physician leaders become more important in a value-based reimbursement world, we should celebrate and support the physicians who are willing to step up to those roles.

I'm Cheryl Pegus, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Clinical Innovation at NYU Langone Medical Center. Thank you.


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