Tennessee hospital trains physicians to become future leaders, administrators

By David Ferguson

​A program at the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) in Knoxville aims to train doctors in the business and personal skills they will need to become hospital administrators and leaders in their communities, according to Becker's Hospital Review

The three-year Physician Leadership Academy gives doctors the training they need to more effectively collaborate with hospital administrators, as well as the business training skills to make them more effective leaders and members of their community, according to Becker's

Keith Gray, M.D., an associate professor with UTMC and chief of the division of surgical oncology, told the publication that he created the program along with senior administrators and medical staff shortly after his promotion to chief of staff at UTMC in 2012. He quickly realized that management required a whole different skill set than patient care, he told Becker's.

"I was about a quarter of the way though my year as chief of staff when I realized that I just didn't feel prepared to be as effective in the position as I wanted to be. I decided on the spot that I didn't want any more physicians or subsequent chiefs of staff to feel that way," he said.

There are benefits to training physician leaders to serve in hospital administrative roles. In 2014, a study from the American College of Physician Executives found that putting physicians in leadership roles made hospitals more successful than institutions with only non-medical laypersons in administrative positions. In 2013, all five of the hospitals ranked best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report were physician-led, as were 21 of the 29 Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations that earned bonuses from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

Administrators at UTMC say that the leadership academy has helped their hospital run more efficiently and provide better patient care. Doctors who have graduated from the program report that it has helped them immeasurably at getting started on their own careers.

"This program has helped identify both the leadership strengths and weaknesses of our physicians as well as help them to more centrally focus their career path," Steve Ross, Ph.D., senior vice president for strategic development at UTMC, told Becker's. "As a result, we have experienced a surge in active participation in a variety of areas from younger physicians who have gone through the program."

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