Accelerating Change in Medical Education

One school's new approach to producing physician leaders

Spotlight on Innovation post by Erin McKean, MD, director of both the Cranial Base Surgery Clinical Innovation Program and the Medical Student Leadership Initiative at the University of Michigan Medical School. This appeared in the November 2014 edition of AMA MedEd Update, a monthly medical education newsletter.

On a beautiful sunny day in the first week of August, before the start of classes, first-year students at the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) could be found in an unusual place: on a small farm.

The event was Leadership Day, and the students were spending time with ZingTrain, the training arm of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Zingerman’s Deli, known for its successful sustainable business model that starts with the concepts of visioning and servant leadership.

The annual Leadership Day event began in 2012 with the induction of UMMS’s Leadership Initiative, which is the centerpiece of Michigan’s new curriculum, made possible through the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education grant. This year’s Leadership Day placed emphasis on working in teams to build class camaraderie and develop skills to lead change in health care. Watch a video from this year’s Leadership Day.

Leadership is a part of our professional identity and is embedded in our social contract. As health care changes, physicians are positioned to identify problems and opportunities, communicate and collaborate with all stakeholders (including other health professionals, administrators, patients and society as a whole), create a vision of the future of health care and manage the changes that will come. In this era of rapid change, UMMS aims to develop physicians with the capacity to work effectively in teams and lead positive change. 

Leadership training at UMMS will encompass four key competencies: leading teams, systems-based practice, influence and communication, and problem solving. The new curriculum will enhance existing leadership activities and expand the program to include:

  • Intentional leadership coaching with a student-directed leadership portfolio and annual one-on-one formative assessments with faculty advisors
  • Multifaceted and interprofessional evaluations
  • Experiences with external experts (such as ZingTrain and the Alda Center for Communicating Sciences) and internal professionals (including faculty from schools across the University of Michigan and teams from the Michigan Quality System, which aims to continually improve quality, safety, efficiency and appropriateness of care within the UM Health System)
  • Application of leadership skills in the activities and capstone experiences of our longitudinal Paths of Excellence (required scholarly concentrations)

The curriculum emphasizes that leadership is not about holding a certain position of authority but rather having a vision for success and being able to plan, motivate others and work with a team to achieve that vision. 

As our curriculum leadership team joined the students on the farm on that August day, we also drafted a vision. We envisioned our graduates building systems of care that are innovative, patient-centered and value-driven, using their leadership training to create positive change.

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