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Leadership Development In Healthcare and Industry

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

Leadership development in the healthcare industry and Scientists are essentially


This is a very polarizing statement so let me explain. Leadership development within the healthcare industry and among scientists is essentially nonexistent. While I’m a doctor with 25 years of experience in various disciplines, it has been my experience outside medicine -- in the military and at Harvard University -- that has led me to this conclusion. It also has compelled me to develop the OPTAC-X Physician and Remote Expert Leadership Development Program.

I started my career as an 18-year-old U.S. Army Combat Medic in 1986 which exposed me to leadership at a very early age. I and my fellow combat medics learned through the standard Operations Order (OP Order) to conduct combat operations and to do what our leaders expected of us. The OP Order was read, described, and conveyed in a way that made our commander’s vison clear. We learned that communication before, during, and after combat operations was essential to mission success.

There were lessons to be learned during the entire process. Training for combat operations the decisions we made and actions we took either cost future lives or saved them. Because of the value of human life, it was imperative that each of us learn good leadership skills, because at any time, we could be called upon to lead.

I later graduated from medical school and a few years after working in clinics and private practice, I decided to return to the military. I became an U.S. Army and Naval Officer served in the US Army’s 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) during my 12-year military career. My time with the Special Forces Group had the biggest effect on my leadership development mostly because I was directly responsible for the lives of so many other soldiers. While I was at Harvard earning a master’s degree in healthcare management, I learned from the theories and principles of experts like John Kotter, Kenneth B. Schwartz, and W. Edwards Deming, which further helped me refine my leadership skills in the healthcare and business industries. These theories also have great practical application in developing physician and expert leaders into highly productive, organizationally oriented, data driven, and quality focused Leaders.

Lead with Ease

“The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output, and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people.W. Edward Deming

The OPTAC-X Leadership Development Plan has four phases that will educate the physician or remote expert leader during a one-year period. After this period, engagement through quarterly leadership seminars and team building exercises will be ongoing. Continual CME courses will be offered in Leadership, Statistical Analysis, Operations Management, and Quality Initiatives/Change Management.

Phase 1:

During this phase, the focus is on understanding who they are as people and leaders

through an Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) test and who they are in times of stress. Afterwards, we will give the physician or remote expert leader the clear vision for the organization. We will explain the current hospital or industry situation regarding quality of care and financial performance with transparency providing the physician or remote expert leader the necessary tools to start effective change management. The goal of this phase is to obtain insight into who they are as leaders, provide communication strategies and organizational team building exercises, and to determine who they want to become as leaders within the organization. During this

phase, Kotter’s and Lewin’s change management theories will be introduced and

practiced. Physician leaders will meet weekly for iteration sessions for 15 weeks iteration.

Phase 2:

During this phase, the focus is on learning data analytics, statistical analysis of process improvements, and business financial operations. The common complaint from physicians and experts I have known for my entire medical career is that these skills are lacking and should be taught in medical school.

Good leaders listen to their teams and provide them with the necessary tools to be successful. The data analytics team and OPTAC-X's CFO will champion this phase and teach the physician and remote expert leaders these new skill sets in a structured format maximizing the use of statistical software programs and basic business finance with the use of Microsoft Excel. The physician and remote expert leaders will utilize their own service line financial data and compare this to the financial impact it has on the organization’s financial health and sustainability. This phase is designed to also break down the barriers/silos between the administrative and executive staff and the physician or remote expert leaders providing the quality care or expertise to their teams. Phase 2 lasts 15 weeks and will build on Phase 1.

Phase 3:

This phase focuses on operations management. The theories of Deming and Walter Shewhart will be introduced and practiced during this phase. It is important to understand that any process that can be measured, can be improved. In Deming’s and Shewhart’s models, “The Plan, Do, Study, Act” cycle will be discussed and OPTAC-X physician and Remote Expert leaders will be educated through real projects and quality initiatives within their own service lines. OPTAC-X will support their projects with key personnel who are experts in quality improvement projects in the industries we serve. Phase 3 lasts 15 weeks and builds on Phase 2.

Phase 4:

Phase 4 lasts 7 weeks and will strive to connect, review and reinforce the learning of the first three phases. Certification and a graduation ceremony recognizing them as organizational leaders within the OPTAC-X system will be implemented at the culmination of the program and this will be very public to the OPTAC-X community and to their colleagues. This plan will be implemented with the same techniques that are taught in all phases of the program. Practicing what is being preached and leading by example is key to the successful Leadership Development Plan. Kotter’s and Lewin’s change management theories are vital to effecting positive change in these physician and remote expert leaders within OPTAC-X's organizational culture and buy in is imperative.

Again, great leaders produce more great leaders, and this is the aim and goal of the OPTAC-X Physician and Remote Expert Leadership Development Program. Our organizational culture that is at the heart of how we do things at OPTAC-X not only helps us, but it defines us as individuals and as a company.

Dr. Patrick J. Fullerton, DO, MHCM


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