Developing Empathetic Physician Leaders

Joe Cantlupe, July 28, 2011

The task of identifying and grooming physician leaders for C-suite posts is complex. A physician may wield a surgical instrument with precision, but could lack the compassion needed to win loyalty from staff and trust from patients. In the post-healthcare reform era, physician leaders who show emotional and clinical strength will be a valuable commodity.

Some health systems are cultivating physician leaders by encouraging empathy, beginning in medical school. This week, a program called, SELECT (Scholarly, Excellence, Leadership, Experiences Collaboration Training Program) was launched in Tampa, FL. It focuses on leadership training and development for medical students, with a specific emphasis on compassion and patient-centered care, elements often missing from science-focused medical school programs.

Students will spend two years studying at University of South Florida Health followed by two years of training at its partner in SELECT, the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, PA, to complete their medical degrees. At least 19 students were selected for SELECT. Another 48 will be picked in the next academic year.

They were chosen not only because of their academic credentials, but for what school officials termed their high level of emotional intelligence, with a hope that they can be "catalysts for change."

"We really think this is an idea whose time has come," said Alicia Monroe, vice dean of educational affairs who leads USF's undergraduate medical education program. "There's a need to redesign medical education to prepare physicians to cope with 21st century complexities. That means working in teams and to embrace the importance of the patient-centered experience. There has been a resistance for what we have all known is the key in the provider/patient relationship. The patient needs to be the center of healthcare."

Joe Cantlupe Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.Twitter
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