Growing Into the Role of a Physician Leader

June 09, 2017

By: Christine Comizio

“You are your own enemy of progress,” one medical student in the room reflected. And she couldn’t have said it better. Most people are likely to evaluate each task as they receive it, thinking: I can do that; I have to do that.

But then they think, whether intentionally or subconsciously, is this task worth progressing forward?

Dr. Rebekah Apple, MA, DHSc, AMSA’s Director of Student Affairs and Programming, spoke today with medical students at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences on the importance of developing your leadership skills as a medical student.

According to Dr. Apple, 9% of health care entities in the United States are run by physicians. Only 9%! Some countries require physicians to run health care facilities. So what does that mean? There is an incredible growth opportunity for physician leadership in the United States and AMSA aims to empower you to join the movement.

Dr. Apple recalled a past experience of working in an organ transplant sector of a hospital and how meaningful interactions with patients can be for your growth as a leader. She said, “One patient may approach you—with yellow eyes, a fragile frame—and tell you: ‘I don’t need a transplant; I’m going to try milk thistle.’”

…what on earth is milk thistle?

Was that your first thought? Possibly. But hopefully you didn’t gasp, wear the exasperation on your face, or say that out loud to your patient. Dr. Apple says that sometimes you’ll need to “meet people where they are,” and she says, “there is nothing more frustrating or beautiful” than reaching that level of balance.

The responsibility is always with the physician, she says–your patients cannot meet you where you are. Why? Because you’ve studied, practiced, and trained for years to be at your level of expertise; they haven’t.

Dr. Rebekah Apple, MA, DHSc, discusses how to develop your leadership skills as a medical student at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences on June 9, 2017.

Meeting your patients where they are is not always easy, and it requires a certain level of open-mindedness. Plus your patients aren’t the only ones you’ll need to worry about; you’ll encounter fellow physicians, nurses, physician’s assistants that all will require you to evaluate your thought process and reactions in varying situations. Dr. Apple reflected on this balance by introducing humility. What does humility mean? How can embracing humility bring you to a level of understanding needed in a strong leader? How can humility help you better navigate health care organizations?

To some students in the room, humility meant the willingness to accept that your ideas might not be the best. For others, it meant that you’re willing to accept your flaws. Dr. Apple agreed, saying that you also need to be comfortable bringing in other people that can compensate for those flaws. This method is not widely accepted in our society, yet it’s so important.

Do you know what your flaws are though? …are you sure? Dr. Apple shared the opportunity to take a free self-awareness assessment for medical students, particularly for those who are preparing for residency. You will not be able to emerge as a strong leader if you don’t know yourself, your challenges, your strengths. More importantly, you won’t be able to grow and improve yourself. Taking this self-awareness assessment will provide insight on both pinpointing potential areas of improvement and recognizing strengths, especially when it comes to being ready for the Match.

Interested in having Dr. Rebekah Apple, MA, DHSc, visit your chapter? She would love to join you! Contact AMSA’s membership team at members@amsa.org to get started.

Dr. Apple has designed and delivered educational programs for the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Physicians, Texas Health Resources and the Pennsylvania Medical Society, among others. She was responsible for customizing the world-recognized CPI 260 assessment to address leadership competencies specific to physicians, which she uses with other assessments to help physicians develop cultures of trust, maintain resiliency and lead through change. She hopes to share her knowledge and experience with your chapter!

Christine Comizio is AMSA’s Communications Manager. Questions? Comment below or email us at members@amsa.org.