Medical School Life

3 keys to boosting your medical student leadership skill set

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

AMA News Wire

3 keys to boosting your medical student leadership skill set

Apr 6, 2024

The roots of physician leadership can take form in many arenas, and honing demonstrable leadership skills can be a key part of shaping your future in residency and in practice. For medical students, one such arena is organized medicine.

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In a recent panel discussion held as part of the 2024 AMA Physician of the Future Summit, a group of young physicians offered insight on leadership lessons they gained through their involvement with the AMA during medical school. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from these AMA members.

Now an emergency physician and health policy fellow at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Sophia Spadafore, MD, said that while leadership opportunities come and go, values must be your guiding light.

“Something that I learned early on—and I've tried to hold to—is to never let my ambitions or the things that I want to do, or trying fit into an organization, compromise my values or who I am,” Dr. Spadafore said.

Rather than looking at opportunities as a medical student as a chance to make connections or rise in the hierarchy of medicine, she urges medical students to “do things for yourself, and to hold true to your values. Get involved. Say yes to the things that you want to do and that serve you and will move you forward and say no to the rest. If you are leading with your own value system, and with wanting to make the world a better place and to change things for the better through your involvement, then anything that you do is going to move you toward that goal.”

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Throughout his journey as a physician, David Lee, MD, has found that a bevy of mentors has been willing to “reach down from above” and give him a hand. As medical students progress in their careers and in organized medicine, he urges them to return the favor. “It teaches a certain amount of awareness that you know you can be somebody that to help people, and you have opportunities to open doors for those who come after you or for those who you're working with,” said Dr. Lee, a fellow in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Northwestern University. In interactions with your younger peers, “ask how can I help? How can I make sure that you can be the best position you want to be? How can I make sure can get access to the opportunities that you feel will help you.”

“It really is empowering to be able to be that voice for people when they may not otherwise feel empowered to talk about things or take action for themselves,” Dr. Lee said.

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While medical students may not have reached the apex of their clinical knowledge or ability, they can be agents of change. Anupriya Dayal, MD, a radiation oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia discovered the power medical students have to lead from the bottom during her time as a member of the medical student section.

When several of her classmates at the Medical College of Wisconsin found out late during their fourth year of training that they had failed the now defunct Step 2 CS exam, formerly part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination series.

“There was a sense of panic among a group of students and the medical school itself,” Dr. Dayal said. “We went to our Wisconsin Medical Society House of Delegates, and we passed a resolution saying that USMLE Step 2 CS should not be required for American medical graduates that are already taking our in-service exams and every type of OSCE [objective structural clinical exam]. Now, years later, USMLE Step 2 CS is no longer required.

“The capability of lateral thinking can sometimes feel like it's being stifled through the traditional way of proceeding in medical training, but really keep finding ways to exercise it, because it will help you in tremendously across life,” Dr. Dayal said.

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