The Four Dimensions of Physician Leadership Part 4- Becoming an Ambassador for the Patient and Community

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In my final blog on the dimensions of physician leadership I will discuss the importance of:

Becoming a better ambassador for the patient and the community

Physicians have historically seen themselves as being devoted to the clinical practice of medicine with minimal, if any,  involvement with external relations.  This is quite understandable;  the practice of medicine is one of the most demanding professions on the planet.  And of course, physicians have done this very well.

But as the health care industry matures and globalizes, the potential sphere of influence of the physician becomes greatly expanded in terms of the individual physician’s role in the community, the nation, and maybe the world.  The internet has accelerated this process greatly.  Part of shaping ones destiny involves greater activity and influence in the medical community.

Part of being a physician leader is to become more global in perspective.  I look at three potential of external influence:  medical advocacy, medical education and networking with other physicians.

In terms of advocacy, the medical profession can be much more influential.  I challenge individual physicians:  Are you a member of the county medical society?  Are you a member of the state medical society?  Are you involved with your own professional society?  Are you active in community health initiatives?  Do you know your own local senator and representative?

Most physicians can only answer yes to a couple of those questions.  Even the individual physician has the opportunity to contribute much more to the field.  Physicians as a whole contribute very little to Political Action Committees sponsored on their behalf .  Given the typical compensation of a physician, the average contribution in this area is particularly paltry.   As a rule, other industries contribute much more to advocacy and investment in the profession than do physicians.  The physician leader must be involved in these areas.  We must invest more in ourselves and in our profession.

Are you involved with medical education?  For most physicians, after finishing a residency and going into practice, there is little exposure to medical education unless you happen to work at an academic medical center.  By becoming more involved in the medical education process, the practicing physician has a wonderful opportunity to give back to the field and work with medical students and residents, even if it is a very small part of their total practice.  Many residencies are looking for  attending physician sponsors for their house staff and students.  Working with training programs is quite stimulating and keeps the physician “on their toes and honest”.

Do you as a physician look at CME as a required evil or an opportunity to truly learn more about medicine?  Very few physicians truly make an assessment of the practice areas they may be weakest in and take a CME course in that area.  Many times CME is simply done because it is required.  The particular conference may be more a function of the location than the medical content.  ( I know, I have done this too !!).  The physician leader should advocate a greater role for the individual physician in the area of medical education.

Finally, the physician leader is truly an Ambassador to the community.  We as physicians should take a much more active role in the community.  We must do a better job of networking with other physicians and advancing and advocating issues in improved medical care, quality and safety.

One cannot be a leader without playing a larger role in community advocacy.  Take full advantage of your sphere of influence.  It is FAR larger than the exam room.

So in summary, effective physician leadership into this New World is quite challenging and complex.  I have discusses four dimensions in these past four blogs.  I will summarize all of these point in my next month’s Newsletter.

Let all of us as physicians see ourselves in the role of leader…. whether it is in the exam room or in the community.  Physicians have earned a great deal of respect for the great things that they do…. USE IT  !!

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