Sunita Mutha, MD FACP
Professor of Clinical Medicine
Director of the Center for the Health Professions
University of California, San Francisco
For the past fifteen years, the Center for the Health Professions has trained leaders and emerging leaders in health systems throughout California and across the nation. We are very proud of the individual and collective contributions our alumni are making in health care. In order to maintain the high bar we’ve set for ourselves to provide relevant and effective curriculum, we have continuously evaluated our training programs. Not only are we seeing evidence of the benefits to the individual leaders who have gone through our programs, but that these benefits in turn accelerate needed change in a variety of healthcare arenas ranging from community health centers to academia. As we strive to increase our impact, this is a good time to take stock of what has stayed the same and what has changed with our leadership training programs.
What has stayed the same?
The starting point for all of our training efforts is fostering an accurate self-awareness of which skills are strengths and which are not. This knowledge is the foundation for identifying what development is needed to become a more effective leader. Our training curriculum focuses on increasing knowledge and skills in key areas, especially on improving the effectiveness of interpersonal interactions (e.g., communication and working in teams). The more intensive leadership programs create an intentional opportunity to apply what is learned--typically as an improvement project in an everyday work setting. The ability to apply new knowledge, test new skills, and participate in a structured reflection about the experience, is e key to changing leadership behaviors. What else has stayed the same? A need for in-person trainings; face-to-face interactions are an essential foundation for building networks, as well as developing many of the desired skills, particularly the interpersonal ones.
What has changed?
We increasingly focus on developing awareness of group or team strengths and dynamics. The complexity of today’s work requires a team to achieve the desired outcomes, raising the need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the collective, as well as the individual. Rapid changes in health care delivery and increasing specialization of knowledge and functions (e.g., quality improvement and information technology) have also propelled a focus on skills that allow individuals and groups to lead and manage change. This involves a systematic use of organizational strategies, structures, and procedures to deal with changes in the external environment.
What is ahead?
In the coming year, we are focused on further integrating new knowledge into our training efforts. We are especially interested in identifying meaningful ways to integrate design thinking and evidence-based entrepreneurship into our leadership training programs. Our unique strength at the Center is the ability to bring academic rigor to this undertaking and to apply our robust research skills inform and evaluate the impact of these changes. Finally, we are committed to intensifying our efforts to strengthen the networks that connect our leadership program alumni. We know that these alumni are the agents of change so vital to creating the health care delivery systems now and into the future.