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Develop Your Leadership Skills as a Physician Leader at UH

UH Clinical Update - April 2017

By Cliff A. Megerian, MD, FACS, President, University Hospitals Physician Services

University Hospitals has emerged as a leading health system, both locally and nationally. Our recent expansion has naturally led to growth in our physician workforce. In the past three years, the number of physicians employed by UH has grown from 1,400 to nearly 2,000. About half are faculty who work in UHMG, and half are faculty who work in the UHMP environment.

It’s clear that systems such as ours are successful in the long term when they develop physician leaders from within their own ranks. Ultimately, we want to have a health system in which new leaders are continually being identified – whether through self-selection or by being recognized by UH leadership -- and can move through formal and informal tracks to fill the important leadership posts throughout our organization.

UH has done this. Physician leaders run our physician organizations and academic teaching hospitals; they hold a variety of CMO positions and leadership of institutes. They also lead newer entities, such as the UH Accountable Care Organization and our Clinically Integrated Network. Most have emerged from the ranks of physicians at UH, and that’s something we can be proud of.

In fact, more than 80 percent of our senior leadership positions that open up for searches are ultimately filled from within. This is a testament not only to the quality and skill of our physicians, but also to the way UH helps emerging leaders develop, by exposing them to the important tenets of organized medicine.

Beyond this, we have created a variety of opportunities for physicians to gauge whether they aspire to an administrative leadership position, either to augment or potentially replace a full-time clinical role.

On the community side, we’ve created the UH Primary Care Institute (PCI), led by George Topalsky, MD, which encompasses 450 primary care physicians. Dr. Topalsky relies on community-based physician leaders to oversee each of six regions, and these regional directors work with physicians in their areas to inspire quality and ease access to the system and its leaders. These physician leaders also help create greater integration within UH.

The Rainbow Primary Care Institute, led by Drew Hertz, MD, has developed a structure similar to that of PCI, in which community-based physician leaders work to enhance the quality of life for their fellow physicians and implement practice changes.

In addition, our ACO has grown to be one of the largest in the U.S. Eric Yasinow, MD, and Bill Steiner, MD, have emerged as excellent physician leaders of this UH entity. They, too, are always looking for physicians to become part of our care delivery system.

Our new Clinically Integrated Network, designed to enhance the connection of independent physicians to UH, also has an advisory physician panel. This group allows independent physicians to interact with one another to maximize cost savings and ensure delivery of the highest-quality care. The Clinically Integrated Network is led by Brad Hillard, DO, who emerged through our UH Leadership Training Program. He’s off to a great start and encourages other physicians to contact him if they are interested in learning about this new endeavor.

When I started in my role as president of UHPS, I realized that many physicians were not ready to make a commitment to leadership in a particular position or area of the system. Yet they were interested in learning more about the basics of organized medicine.

So, on the community side, we created an advisory panel for UHMP that is made up of 35 to 40 physicians. This group meets every two months to review financial details of our physicians’ organization. It considers strategies, as well as corporate or governmental issues that are top of mind for our community physicians. During these meetings, we review with local experts the latest challenges and potential solutions to the changes that face us -- locally, regionally and nationally.

We work with our faculty physicians in a similar way. This quarter, we are forming an advisory council for UHMG. This council will meet every quarter and review issues similar to those of the UHMP council, but with a focus on the challenges specific to academic physicians in an academic medical center.

Both of these councils are self-selecting, so if you have an interest in joining one, let leaders know. These groups provide opportunities not only for developing leadership skills, but also for gaining general knowledge about medicine, academic or medical research, and national medical issues.

But I don’t think that merely creating these opportunities is enough. There also must be formalized education programs and curricula developed for our physicians, providing both the basics and advanced training for leadership and business development.

That’s why Tom Snowberger, our Chief Human Resource Officer, has created a movement at UH that responds to these requirements and maximizes our development of physician leaders. These UH leadership platforms allow physicians to proceed through leadership education training, provided both online and in person. This core focus by corporate leadership is a mechanism we didn’t have before. We will provide more details on this program in the near future.

For those who have completed some of these courses and have been identified as potential leaders, our organization offers the Leadership Academy, which will soon be selecting a new cohort of physicians to go through the year-long course. Many of those who have completed Leadership Academy have used the skills they developed and have been promoted within the organization.

Finally, most successful emerging leaders here have identified mentors at UH, whether within or outside their departments. We are committed to providing guidance to assist those who seek to advance.

To sum up, by looking at all of these opportunities as a whole, one can see a rich environment that offers leadership training, guidance, mentoring and formal coursework. These opportunities exist now, and more will be offered in the future.

It is clear that organizations that cultivate, develop and align physician leaders are successful on many fronts – and we strive to do still more in this arena.