Today’s physicians are the most well-trained in the history of medicine. Every medical school graduate possesses a vast and diverse skill set, an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the human body and a deep understanding of the technologies, therapies and techniques needed to care for patients. But these days, that’s not always enough. Modern medicine is increasingly a team effort, requiring specialists, nurses and technicians within a complicated health care system. To deliver the best care possible and meet the needs of patients, today’s physicians need to be more than care providers.
“Medical school trains people to be doctors,” says David Finn, MD, medical director of Massachusetts General Hospital‘s Concierge Medicine practice and the Gill and Allan Gray Family Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine. “It doesn’t train them how to run a department or oversee a team. It doesn’t train them to be leaders using emotional intelligence.”
As health care systems grow more complex, a physician’s ability to manage and communicate is becoming more essential to good patient outcomes. However, this kind of professional development has been historically overlooked by hospitals. But now a new effort at Mass General is hoping to transform physician education and launch a new generation of leaders with skills to navigate the ever-changing medical field.
MGH ELEVATE, a new leadership program aiming to provide a transformational journey for physicians made possible thanks to a $3 million gift from the Ruderman Family Foundation, is designed to give junior faculty with leadership potential the managerial and communications skills they need to drive transformative change at the institutional level. In addition, the groundbreaking program, under the leadership of co-directors Dr. Finn and Aleena Banerji, MD, is committed to diversifying hospital leadership and expanding opportunities for candidates of color. ELEVATE welcomed its first cohort in December 2022.
“Transformational change starts with individuals,” says Mass General President David F. M. Brown, MD. “Increasingly, managerial leadership is proving to be one of the essential factors in the success of academic medical centers like Mass General and in health systems like Mass General Brigham. The Ruderman Family Foundation’s generosity and vision will have a profound impact by helping us attract exceptional talent and create an environment that inspires leaders to remain here throughout their careers.”
Off the Ground
ELEVATE has its roots in Dr. Finn’s own experience following his first promotion to a leadership role. “Early in my career, I realized I didn’t know much about managing people,” Dr. Finn says. “It occurred to me that high-performing companies outside of health care usually have templates and programs in place to prepare and support rising leaders.”
Enter the Ruderman Family Foundation. Launched in the early 2000s, the Ruderman Family Foundation is guided by the belief that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community, and their philanthropic gifts reflect their deep commitment and expertise in leadership development and organizational change.
“Today’s hospital leaders and department heads are facing unprecedented challenges that require managing across numerous sectors,” says Ruderman Foundation President and Trustee Jay Ruderman. “We saw an opportunity to help steward the future of Mass General and make a long-term impact that wasn’t necessarily material.”
The year-long program consists of intensive seminars, practice groups, coaching and mentorship, culminating in a capstone project — all designed to help participants foster communication skills and emotional intelligence, and hone essential leadership management techniques. The curriculum was developed in conjunction with MIT organizational development expert Aithan Shapira, PhD. The program’s first cohort of 15 physicians is drawn from across Mass General’s Department of Medicine, and includes members of the Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease, Allergy, Cardiology, Hematology-Oncology, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine divisions.
“This training will allow me to better understand, adapt, and operationalize my leadership style, so it might be more effectively applied across a large clinical division,” says program participant Eric Schmidt, MD.
“One of the great challenges we face in infectious diseases is figuring out the best way for the different branches of our division to work together,” says Ruanne Barnabas, MBChB, MSc, DPhil, chair of Mass General’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “The ELEVATE program has offered me an opportunity to learn and expand my skills that can have a multiplying effect on what we do as a division and for our patients.”
According to Dr. Finn, one of the primary goals of ELEVATE is the creation of a new leadership pipeline. “We’re hoping that our current participants will mentor and lead others down the line, and that they will remain a force for positive change going forward, here or wherever they take their careers,” he says. The application process for the second ELEVATE cohort is expected to begin in the summer of this year.
“Excellence has many shapes and forms — but Mass General’s excellence is, above everything else, rooted in its people,” says Ruderman Family Foundation Executive Director Shira Ruderman. “This initiative is an opportunity to help prepare today’s young doctors for the challenges of tomorrow, and we’re confident that in the years to come it will be looked at as a model for others to duplicate.”
“Funding for non-research-based projects in medicine is almost impossible to obtain, but the reality is the future of medicine depends on this kind of investment,” says ELEVATE co-director Aleena Banerji, MD, who also serves as director of Mass General’s Drug Allergy Program and clinical director of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted some of the broad challenges we’re facing including gaps in leadership among physicians. I believe, thanks to the Ruderman Foundation, that this program will result in better outcomes for patients, higher staff satisfaction and lower rates of burnout across the entire Mass General system.”
To find out more about the ELEVATE program, or how you can help support professional development and education at Mass General, contact us.