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Women in Medical Management: Women Physicians Are Uniquely Qualified to Lead Our Healthcare System

be differentMost women do not become physicians willing to trade in their white coats or scrubs for a business suit and heels.  Most are not thinking that they want to work at a governmental agency or manage a large group of physicians.  Medical school does not prepare physicians for the many alternative career opportunities that an MD degree opens up.

The lock-step 7-12 year program from white coat ceremony to farewell to residency dinner assiduously avoids models of participation in our healthcare system which don’t involve direct patient care.  And during this time, the call to serve directly is so strong, and the representation of “administrators” is negatively portrayed, most physicians don’t consider a career in “administration,” which is a form of medical leadership.

“Medical leadership” typically evokes the image of the president of the American Medical Association, the Dean of a Medical School or the chair of the department of medicine.   Women have  made few inroads into these rigidly controlled positions.  But we are entering uncertain and tumultuous times.  The best time to advance and make the most of new opportunities.

New, more accessible positions of medical leadership are emerging out of the necessities of running a rapidly morphing healthcare system.  New structures and new functions require unique skills and experiences.  These positions fall into the broad category of “medical management”–from hospital president to chief medical officer, from managed care coordinator to industry consultant.

With over 10,000 members, the American College of Physician Executives creates a forum for physicians to take on the leadership roles in medical management.  Their newly published book by consultant, author and entrepreneur Deborah M. Shlian, MD, MBA spotlights women physicians in medical management.  A must read for everyone:  Lessons Learned: Stories from Women in Medical Management

Through story telling of 26 women “managers”, the world of medical management for women physicians is nicely laid out.  The “how to rise” to positions  in government, hospitals, large provider groups, managed care organizations, industry, academia, and entrepreneurship.  Some have pursued additional degrees (MBA, MPH, PhD), although this is not a requirement for all.  But thinking out of the box is.

Why are women not just qualified, but uniquely qualified to lead our healthcare system?   We are taught from early childhood to get along with others, to create win-win situations, and to handle multiple people and their many problems all at once.  Creating “family” harmony without losing sight of the individual’s needs are well instilled in women starting from a very early age.  Time to make use of the things we were taught to do as little girls and instead of bemoaning the things that we weren’t taught because we weren’t little boys.  We can instead use these qualities and apply them to leadership in management positions.

Shlian’s book is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with an alternative career path for women physicians.  No matter the stage of your career, keep your options open, keep your mind open.  Pursue your interests.  Learn how other women have transitioned from bedside to board room.

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