President's Letter

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Learning to lead

By Tricia Elliott, MD

Greetings Colleagues. I recently had the pleasure of attending AAFP’s National Conference of Constituency Leaders and the Annual Chapter Leader Forum in Kansas City, Missouri, two conferences packed with leadership training and opportunities. As I was returning home, I couldn’t help but reflect on how lucky we are to be part of such an active and engaged community of family doctors. To witness the energy and enthusiasm for learning and networking, to take part in lively debates, and to watch colleagues collaborate to craft policy ideas — the weekend was truly a joy.

Our Texas chapter was well represented throughout both conferences. We had 17 members attending, seven of whom were first-time attendees to NCCL and ACLF. Again this year, Texas sent a full delegation to NCCL, which means we had an official representative for each of the convening member constituencies: new physicians; women physicians; international medical graduates; minority physicians; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender physicians.

Mary Nguyen, MD, of Castroville served as co-convener for NCCL this year and Gerald Banks, MD, of Corpus Christi won a co-convener position for the IMG constituency at next year’s meeting. Dr. Banks was also elected to represent the member constituencies at the Congress of Delegates this fall.

Eight of our members in attendance are graduates of the inaugural class of TAFP’s Family Medicine Leadership Experience — a yearlong leadership program the Academy began last year — and two more are enrolled in the program this year. That’s something to celebrate!

Several years ago, a group of members wanted to focus on helping family doctors succeed in leadership roles, not just within the Academy but in their communities and their places of work. They formed the Leadership Development Committee and began thinking big.

“We are rigorously trained in a model that makes us experts in our clinical skills but does little to make us successful leaders. Yet once we enter practice, we suddenly find ourselves leading care teams. We are expected to be great leaders without any practical training in leadership skills.”

The Family Medicine Leadership Experience, or FMLE, is the culmination of their work. Participants attend four one- to two-day sessions throughout the year where they receive expert training in personality types, strategic planning, persuasive communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, advocacy, media skills, and so much more. Visit www.tafp.org/membership/FMLE to learn more.

Twenty-eight members went through the first year of training, and just look at them now. They’re attending NCCL and ACLF, serving as chairs and vice chairs of TAFP committees, and taking on new roles in their health systems and academic institutions. The 2017 class has already had their first session and I know they’re going to have a great year.

The skills these members are learning are so important to us as family physicians. All types of people become family doctors and sure, some are natural born leaders, but most of us are not. We are rigorously trained in a model that makes us experts in our clinical skills but does little to make us successful leaders. Yet once we enter practice, we suddenly find ourselves leading care teams. We are expected to be great leaders without any practical training in leadership skills.

The good news is you can learn to be a successful leader and the opportunities to acquire those skills are all around. You just have to open yourself to those opportunities and take advantage of them.

For me, taking a break from the office to attend NCCL and ACLF was refreshing and invigorating, a chance to recharge, reconnect, and focus on sharpening my own leadership skills. I encourage you to seek out similar experiences, like FMLE or the leadership training track offered during the TAFP Annual Session and Primary Care Summit this fall.

Sometimes you have to treat yourself, so you can get back to treating your patients, happily and healthily.

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