Leading the Charge

The Pennsylvania Radiological Society is serious about leadership, and it's spreading the word.leading the charge

Each time Pennsylvania's state chapter, the Pennsylvania Radiological Society, surveyed its members, leadership came in among the top areas of interest.

So when Mary H. Scanlon, MD, FACR, the society's immediate past president, starting planning the chapter's 2012 annual meeting, it made perfect sense to make leadership the theme.

As they put together the annual meeting program, Scanlon and Robert S. Pyatt, MD, FACR, the society's annual meeting program chair, drew heavily from principles showcased by the Radiology Leadership Institute (RLI) curriculum and even invited speakers from the institute to take part in the meeting. Now, incoming president Elaine R. Lewis, MD, FACR, is taking up the cause, positioning leadership development at the forefront of the chapter's activities. The Bulletin caught up with Scanlon and Lewis to discuss leadership in the specialty and share ways that chapters and practices can incorporate RLI training.

Which aspects of the RLI program resonated most for each of you?

mary scanlonScanlon: The RLI embraces the concept that leadership spans a wide variety of skills. It includes everyday things, like how to run a meeting, how to accomplish your goals, and how to get the buy-in of your colleagues for new initiatives. To be successful in these situations, you need to develop leadership skills, understand different personalities, and identify your strengths. The RLI teaches radiologists to lead by example, get people excited about things, and share a common vision.

Lewis: At the RLI launch event, I was struck by the idea that you have to plan for the worst-case scenario. You can't be caught off guard; you have to expect these things and prepare for them. So when something happens, you don't just hide behind a closed door and hope it goes away. You have to really confront it, because avoiding issues usually just makes them worse.

I also came away with strategies for dealing with confrontation and ways to look at unpleasant situations differently. It's very hard to pin down exactly what you should do in every situation, but it was really helpful to bring up some issues we were facing and talk them through together.

How have you taken things you've learned through the RLI and incorporated them into your chapter?

Scanlon: Leadership is a topic very near to my heart. As chapter president, I considered it very important to equip our members with the skillsets they need to operate in today's health-care environment. When we invited speakers from the RLI to come and give presentations in 2012, chapter members were enthusiastic about the topic, and some of the sessions were so popular we ran out of chairs!

As a state chapter, we decided that each year we would fund one fourth-year resident to complete the Harvard Emerging Leaders Seminar through RLI. We also fund three residents who want to attend AMCLC and attend the Resident and Fellow Section activities.

elaine lewisLewis: Now we're gearing up for our 2013 annual meeting. We're focusing on leadership again this year, with even more emphasis on the RLI. And once again we're bringing in RLI and ACR speakers. We see this as a golden opportunity for members to come and get a lot of leadership information that they can take back to their practices.

How have you incorporated RLI training into your practice?

Scanlon: As a residency director, it is a given that we want to train clinically outstanding radiologists, but we must also give our trainees the skill set to be future leaders in academics, research, business, and politics. We want our graduates to be the ones running ACRIN®, leading their private practice, or serving as ACR Council speaker.

At the University of Pennsylvania, we offer our fourth-year residents the chance to participate in the Harvard Emerging Leaders Seminar through RLI. They have funds set aside for attending a meeting that they need not present at, and we're easing the restrictions on that definition a little bit so that they can attend leadership-focused training. During the three months that the seminar runs, they are given one day off each week to do the coursework.

Lewis: In my private practice, we have a great group of radiologists. We certainly know the challenges that we face, and we have talked about many of the things that came up at RLI. So now when issues arise, we consciously apply the principles we learned at the RLI Inaugural Event in deciding what to do. For example, one of the session focused on leading with integrity. When faced with difficult decisions, our group focuses on the question, what is the right thing to do for the patient and community? Ultimately, this has had a positive effect on our relationship with both our referring physicians and our hospital.

Why do you think it's important for radiologists to have leadership skills?

Scanlon: We don't practice in a vacuum. And we can't sit by while health-care decisions are being made around us. We need to come out of the darkroom and claim a place at the table where decisions are being made. We have to have the skillset to make our voice heard, negotiate, and effectively interact with people in different contexts.

Lewis: I think radiologists are going to have fun figuring out what their role is in the future. There are a lot of people who think that they can just sit there and read images. It's becoming clear that this is not the case. If I've learned one thing from the RLI program it's that we need to approach the challenges to our specialty directly. Not dealing with them is not an option.

By Lyndsee Cordes

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