The Advantage of Physician Leaders in the C-Suite

November 16, 2020

Tony Slonim is a physician leader and Renown CEO

As a physician leader and the CEO of a health system, one of my responsibilities is to assemble effective, collaborative teams to guide our organization. Each team member brings unique experiences and skills to the table. It’s important to consider how these perspectives complement one another.

Traditionally in healthcare, it was common to separate clinical and management teams. However, as we have seen in other industries, it’s beneficial for “domain experts” to serve in positions of authority. On a professional sports team, this might mean appointing a former all-star athlete as the coach. In healthcare, it means encouraging physicians to serve in leadership positions.

The Journey of Physician Leaders

Although physicians are most commonly thought of as scientists or caregivers, it’s important to also recognize them as leaders. Physicians often begin their leadership journey as early as medical school when their families turn to them for medical advice. With education and experience, physicians are seen as leaders by our patients, co-workers, and communities. Throughout their training and careers, physicians gain vast experience guiding others through high-stakes challenges. During these times, physician leaders draw on both their clinical knowledge and leadership skills to assess the situation, determine the best path forward, and direct their team.

Many physicians are called to apply their clinical and leadership experience to other roles. For example, serving as county health officials, directors of medical schools, or leaders of healthcare organizations. In these positions, physicians work on different types of challenges than they might normally encounter if they solely cared for patients. However, their understanding of patients’ and physicians’ needs can help them to make more informed decisions.

In medicine, effective leadership has real benefits. As our industry continues to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs, it is our responsibility to identify the strongest leaders to care for our patients and communities.

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