Two-Part WHA Physician Leadership Development Conference Kicks Off with Inspirational Messages from National Thought-Leaders

March 18, 2021

Physicians and physician leaders attending the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) Physician Leadership Development Conference on March 12 gained insights and practical advice on leading their teams and preparing for emerging health care trends from three respected health care visionaries in the first of this year’s two-part conference. The virtual conference will be augmented with an in-person gathering Sept. 14-15 in Kohler, Wis.
The first speaker to address the 115 physicians and physician leaders in attendance, David Nash, M.D., is founding dean emeritus and the Dr. Raymond C. and Doris N. Grandon Professor of Health Policy at the Jefferson College of Population Health (JCPH). JCPH is dedicated to developing future health care leaders.  
Dr. Nash reflected on the history of quality improvement and the culture of training and practice before providing a view of future trends relevant to the evolution of health care practice. He described how Dr. Ernest Codman, a surgeon form Boston, was ridiculed for suggesting that physicians pay attention to the quality of their work and that physicians make efforts to continually improve their results. Attendees were reminded that that medical errors still occur and that teamwork is crucial to optimal outcomes. Good teams, Nash noted, have a shared purpose, function in a safe environment, are open to diverse viewpoints and solve problems by negotiation. In the U.S., health care is focused on treating illness, Nash observed, suggesting that health care leaders should expand their approach to include promoting heath and healthy lifestyles. Such a change would decrease cost and waste, would engage patients in their care, would decrease burnout among health care providers and would improve the health of the population, according to Nash.
The conference’s second speaker, J.P. Pawliw-Fry, has leveraged a passion for helping people manage their emotions to develop science-based skills and tools to build a culture of exceptional leadership. His organization surveys more than 38,000 people per month. Pawliw-Fry noted that leading under pressure requires courage and adaptability. Some organizations procrastinate when faced with problems, resulting in delayed solutions. Pawliw-Fry cited three critical characteristics in high-performing leaders: intellectual capacity, technical skill and emotional intelligence, the latter being twice as important as the other two combined. He contrasted responses to stress between areas of the brain—the amygdala and the neocortex—drawing a parallel to a quote form author John Gardner: “The world loves talent but pays off on character.” Physicians with excellent character will have emotional intelligence and will lead with a reasoned approach to the problem, rather than an emotional response from the amygdala, Pawliw-Fry related, adding that a good leader function is present when the leader is present, is communicating well, engenders trust and asks for the opinions of the team members.
Marty Martin, a highly sought-after international presenter, trainer and facilitator currently serving as director and associate professor of the health sector management MBA program at DePaul University in Chicago, rounded out the conference by addressing topics ranging from managing physician performance to elements of teamwork. Martin’s remarks included a discussion of high-functioning organizations and individuals. He noted that the road to reaching one’s maximum potential must be built on a bedrock of respect of the individual, a commitment to excellence and a rejection of mediocrity. Among the forces fueling effective leadership, according to Martin, are positive feedback and integrity. He closed his presentation with a discussion of managing conflict and disruptive behavior.
WHA members who were not able to join this first installment of the Physician Leadership Development Conference are welcome to join the September in-person event. Contact the WHA education department to learn more.

This story originally appeared in the March 18, 2021 edition of WHA Newsletter