What Are Your Biggest Challenges as a Physician Leader?

I Want to Address Your Needs

I feel that it’s time for me to reflect on where VITAL Physician Executive has been, where it’s going, and whether I am addressing the biggest challenges for the physician leader.

Update on This Blog

Last year when I started writing, I committed to myself to post twice a week. And I have stuck by that pretty well. Since June 2016, I have published 84 posts prior to this one.

But you may have noticed that I’ve slowed down over the past month. My recent posts have been longer than most of my previous posts. For example, the post just prior to this one (Creating a Wildly Effective Annual Management Plan) was well over 2,000 words, and the two prior to that ran around 1,000 words each.

When I read opinions about the ideal lengths of posts, I see recommendation of 500 to 700 words (Michael Hyatt), to 750 to 1,000 words (Mark Mason) to lengthy, in-depth mega-posts that may be 3,000+ words in length (Tim Ferriss).

Create a Wildly Effective Annual Management Plan

As a Leader You Should Demand a Yearly Set of Stretch Goals

My practice partner and I had been working together for about a year in our small family practice. A medical equipment salesperson approached us promoting a new device that would surely bring in additional practice revenue.

After considering the purchase, we decided to proceed. We signed a loan agreement and purchased the device. It would take 5 years to pay back the loan. We were convinced the device would generate procedures that would easily cover the loan payments.

medical device annual management plan

Eighteen months later, we had only used the device about a dozen times, and we were stuck making that monthly payment with little revenue to offset the cost.

We had been overly optimistic in our assessment of the need for the device. And we had not considered what we would do if it failed to match the salesperson’s inflated return on investment.

Unlock Leadership Through Coaching

An Introduction to Coaching for Performance at the AAPL Spring Institute

Before describing how to unlock leadership through coaching, I want to mention that Vital Physician Executive was featured on Future Proof MD. Please check out Future Proof Docs – The Vital Physician Executive and let me know what you think.

How to Unlock Leadership Through Coaching

My thinking about coaching has been evolving.

leadership through coaching socrates

The Death of Socrates – by Jacques-Louis David

As I described in my post comparing coaching and mentoring, coaching can be defined as the process of helping someone improve a skill by offering feedback as an impartial but knowledgeable observer.

In that model, a coach is focused on improving an individual’s skill in a certain area. This follows the old sports model of coaching.

Pursuing Resilient Physician Leadership

Combining Fun and Learning at the AAPL Spring Institute

My practice had become a burden. My patients seemed annoying and overly demanding. I was living alone in a small duplex, feeling isolated. I was sleeping more than usual, yet fatigued most of the time. Any resiliency had been stretched and tested and was wearing thin.

resilient physician leadership isolation

My usual optimism was gone. I did not become overtly suicidal, but I began to have thoughts about what it would be like if I was no longer “around.”

Monthly Leadership Favorites – April 2017 Edition

Don't Ruin An Apology With An Excuse

It’s time for the VITAL Physician Executive’s Monthly Leadership Favorites – April 2017 Edition. In this feature I share inspiring and enlightening advice from respected leaders, generally from outside of healthcare (but not always).

Leadership Favorites – April 2017 Edition

This month’s favorites follow…

United Airlines Faux Pas

United Airlines provided some obvious examples recently of how NOT to treat your customers (a.k.a. patients). Without getting into the weeds, here is what was reported:

  • United Airlines overbooked a flight;
  • UAL subsequently found that it needed four of the seats for its own employees to travel;
  • The discovery did not happen until after the paying passengers were already seated;
  • Four passengers were reportedly selected, using an unclear algorithm, to leave the plane to accommodate the employees;
  • Three of them left quietly, but one passenger refused to exit;
  • The passenger that refused to give up his seat was confronted and forcibly removed by airport security personnel;
  • Much of the altercation was videotaped by other passengers and has been extensively shared on YouTube and other social media;
  • The initial responses to the incident by the CEO of UAL was less than stellar.

Failure Promotes Discovery and Breeds Character

Remembering an Influential Friend

I was awakened at 2:30 AM by the ringing of my home telephone not two feet away. It was startling and disorienting. My “land-line” never rang at night. And my wife and I rarely answer it because only telemarketers call us on that phone.

failure promotes discovery bad news

But my wife answered. She determined that the caller wanted to speak to me. After clearing my head for a few seconds and focusing on what the caller was trying to tell me, I finally heard:

“This is Maya. I am calling to tell you that my father, Kan, died earlier this week.”

The Looming American Association for Physician Leadership Annual Conference

An Opportunity for Inspiration, Learning and Networking

I really miss attending the physician leadership annual conference of the AAPL. For the past 2 ½ years, I have been consumed with starting a new urgent care center north of Chicago. In addition to interviewing, hiring, writing policies and procedures, and training staff, this required that I study for the American Board of Family Medicine exam (thankfully, I passed!).

It also required a thorough review of workers compensation and occupational medicine. And I needed to take a mandatory course and exam by the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners in order to conduct physical examinations for interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers.

As a result, I was not able to attend any recent American Association for Physician Leadership Annual Conference or Institute.

However, I am now registered to attend the 2017 Spring Institute and Annual Meeting! They run back to back from April 18 through April 23, in New York City. And my wife will be attending with me because she loves New York.

Top Reasons to Reintroduce Your CME Program

Benefits For Patients, Physicians, and Your Organization

I’ve spent lots of time involved in planning, producing, evaluating and participating in CME. And I’ve observed over the past two decades that the number of CME providers in Illinois, where I live, has been declining. But there are recent changes that indicate that it’s time to reintroduce your CME program if your organization has withdrawn from the CME planning world.

reintrodure your cme program lecture

Participating in CME (continuing medical education) has been a big part of my professional life. After completing my residency, and joining a hospital medical staff, the first committee I was assigned to was the “Program and Education Committee” (a.k.a. the CME Committee).

Preparing to Be a Better Physician Leader – Part 2

A List of Important Skills to Learn and Practice

I started this series by discussing the attitudes or perspectives that physician leaders should understand and adopt. I would like to complete it with a description of some practical skills that you should seek to learn or enhance. If you are early in the journey, you can try to observe these skills in others as you’re preparing to be a better physician leader.

This is a process. Like any new realm of learning, we follow a path from awareness, to understanding, knowledge, competence, and eventually, mastery. This process may take years to complete.


The Chief Operating Officer and I asked the Director of the Laboratory, Sheila, to join us to discuss a challenge she was experiencing with her staff. I was still learning the ropes about working with directors of hospital departments like the Lab. The COO was quite good at sorting through difficult issues and building strong teams.

The director was very frustrated. She spoke about a particularly difficult employee. Peter had been working as a laboratory technician for many years. Every few months he would become the center of some drama in the department. He would be “written up” and then not be heard from for several months.

Preparing to Be a Better Physician Leader – Part 1

A List of Important Attitudes to Examine

Several events this week inspired me to think about preparing to be a better physician leader.

A colleague reminded me about the upcoming Spring Institute and Annual Meeting of the American Association for Physician Leadership. I had just completed registering myself. And I volunteered to act as an ambassador, assisting with introducing speakers and helping to support the meeting.

Networking with colleagues and old friends will be fun. And I look forward to spending time in New York City with my wife, Kay, when I am not attending educational sessions.

better physician leader board

As vice president of the local nonprofit hospice board, I had the privilege of chairing the board meeting because the president was out-of-town. It was interesting to observe how the board members, many of them leaders in their own organizations, communicate with one another and run some of the subcommittees to which they are assigned. It is a very effective team.