A Measure of Success

Who should prepare the next generation of cardiologists to succeed in the increasingly complex milieu of medicine? Physicians, medical schools or the societies designed to meet their professional needs? Perhaps all.

In this issue we explore the work environment that early career cardiologists face today. The average physician entering the profession will carry substantial debt, and while salaries are still handsome, at the entry level they may not match up to expectations. Job satisfaction, not money, likely will sustain many careers through this dynamic period in healthcare.

Navigating an uncharted landscape will require skills that have nothing to do with clinical expertise. Physicians likely won’t get that training in medical school, though. As Cam Patterson, MD, MBA, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, so succinctly put it: “In medical school, you get taught to pass the boards.”

Some societies have recognized that physicians need more than clinical acumen to take meaningful roles in healthcare reform. If they want to lead rather than be led, they need broad exposure to issues and policies. That message is beginning to resound in conferences. While science rules the scientific sessions, programs now intersperse talks on clinical findings with healthcare reform, practice management and quality initiatives.

Medical schools would do their students a service by following these examples and making a commitment to produce not only phenomenal physicians but also functional physicians; that is, proactive people who adapt as their work environment evolves.

Physician leader is a popular phrase these days. We can have only so many leaders, yet we can’t have too many well-informed physicians with a broad set of skills that will allow them to pursue fulfilling careers in cardiology.

To me, that is the mark of success.