TCT: Young physicians advised to develop leadership skills

MIAMI—Cardiologists in the early stages of their careers must devote as much time and attention to learning leadership as they do to honing  technical and clinical skills. That was the consensus of a panel of young leaders in cardiology at a Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) session Oct. 23 on launching and sustaining a successful career.

The panel emphasized the need for any cardiologist attempting to build a practice to develop and exercise emotional intelligence. Panelist Jennifer A Tremmel, MD, of Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, Calif., noted that self-awareness, self-control and empathy for others are necessary in order to work collegially with colleagues, earn the trust of patients and deal effectively with change. These qualities are all fundamental components of a successful medical practice.

Negotiating and team building skills are not taught in medical school, but physicians who aspire to have a vigorous and fulfilling practice must learn to manage people and conflict effectively, said Howard T "Bo" Walpole, MD, MBA, of the Okyanos Heart Institute in Belleair, Fla. The increasingly complex healthcare structures of the future will require active participation from clinicians with these skills, whether or not the physician has administrative aspirations.

Walpole cautioned physicians interested in administration to be aware that they often become the odd man out. "Many groups place a low value on leadership ... and the physicians may see you as an administrator, and the administrators see you as a doctor." He advised physicians desiring to take on an administrative role to maintain a clinical practice, although he rued the time commitment.

"At one point I decided to devote 60 percent of my time to clinical practice and 40 percent of my time to administration. Now I spend 60 percent of my time on clinical practice and another 60 percent on admin duties," he joked. Still, he said, it is important to continue clinical practice to maintain credibility with physicians.

Srihari S. Naidu, MD, of Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., encouraged interested physicians to start developing leadership skills by working with their professional societies. He also emphasized the importance of self-awareness and authenticity when pursuing a role in the societies. It is important for the physician to genuinely want to make a difference for the better, and to have the skill and the will to make a serious commitment, he explained.