My mini-MBA

June 2016 - Vol. 35, No. 05

By Peter M. Vila, MD, MSPH, Vice-chair, Section for Residents and Fellows-in-Training (SRF), Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

vilaAs vice-chair to the Section for Residents and Fellows-in-Training (SRF), I was very lucky to be able to attend the 2016 AAO-HNS/F Leadership Forum & BOG Spring Meeting in Alexandria, VA, and benefit from the wonderful mentorship and wisdom being passed along to all the residents and fellows in attendance.

The overall focus of the meeting was on developing leadership in otolaryngology, or as Board of Governors (BOG) Chair David R. Edelstein, MD, put it, a “mini-MBA.” The day began with a panel on developing a long-term career plan, followed by an informative and energizing speed-mentoring session. Admiral Christine S. Hunter, MD, then delivered a keynote speech, “Leadership in Large Organizations,” focusing on her experience in the U.S. Navy and the federal government. She shared some key lessons that she picked up along the way, making sure to impart on the audience that ambition and a willingness to speak up are helpful in securing leadership roles. Through her past stories of being “outspoken,” she described how those experiences later led to her being awarded leadership roles where she was able to carry out her vision, while adapting to the environment around her. The rest of the day was packed full of excellent panels and speakers, ranging from dealing with insurance denials and advocating for your patients, to updates on RegentSM and navigating ICD-10.

Sunday brought more exciting talks and panels on leadership, anchored by a keynote speech from Richard Popovic, MBA. In his inspiring lecture, “Learning Leadership,” he discussed how the house of medicine is now increasingly led by non-physicians, and how physicians might be able to use skills learned from the business world to enhance their own leadership skills, including personality assessments and techniques for managing and leading groups of people in the workplace. The rest of the day featured panels on marketing with social media, managing online reviews, crafting a business plan, and the nuts and bolts of the Board of Governors, culminating with a panel of Academy leaders on how to navigate leadership challenges in medicine.

To me, the meeting overall conveyed the sense that perhaps otolaryngologists should be more involved in leadership roles, and that there are specific tools available to us that might help us attain those goals. Pursuing an MBA might be helpful, but certainly not necessary. There are elements from the MBA curriculum that we can teach ourselves, such as developing a business plan, understanding one’s leadership style, and adapting to different group environments and cultures. I left Alexandria feeling energized and hopeful that the future of otolaryngology is bright, and hope that we as a specialty can take charge of our careers by pursuing more leadership roles in the future.