By Erika D. Peterman
FMA Managing Editor
Christienne Alexander, M.D., was a pioneer -- one of 10 physicians selected for the second FMA Karl M. Altenburger M.D. (KMA) Physician Leadership Academy class in 2011. Excited as she was about the fledgling program, she didn't quite know what to expect.
Dr. Alexander, a family practice physician and Florida State University College of Medicine Assistant Professor, now looks back on the program as "a mini MBA for physicians" that helped her find her voice as an advocate for doctors and patients. When the 2016-17 Academy participants gathered in Tampa for their first session in October, Dr. Alexander and three of her fellow graduates urged them to make the most of the experience and embrace health care's transformation.
A recurring theme: Young physicians should be leading the transformation.
"Programs like this get us out of our imposter syndrome," said Dr. Alexander, who is also a District Representative on the FMA Board of Governors. "As young physicians, sometimes we think we don't know what we're doing. It's about moving past that because we all have a voice, and we can influence the change that's going to be here 20 years from now. It is important to sit at the table and open your mouth."
Since the Academy launched in 2010, some 77 physicians have completed the program and many have served on the FMA Board or councils and committees. One of them is Melissa Shaughnessy, D.O., a 2013 graduate and FMA Young Physician Section Board representative who joined Dr. Alexander during the panel discussion in Tampa. Dr. Shaughnessy said that "this is a great time" to step up, as organizations are moving past outdated perceptions of what leadership looks like.
"The FMA really is very interested in the young physician perspective," said Dr. Shaughnessy, a family practice physician with the Department of Veteran Affairs in Orlando. "You guys are on the cutting edge of medicine. A lot of organizations are looking for that young, innovative physician to be a leader, whether it's in politics or education or the running of your business."
As the Academy's reputation and ranks have grown, physicians often apply based on word of mouth. Internal medicine physician Noah Hoskins, M.D., a member of the current class, had been actively seeking opportunities to sharpen her leadership skills when she learned about the Academy in a conversation with FMA CEO Tim Stapleton.
"I thought, 'This is exactly what I'm looking for,' " said Dr. Hoskins, Regional Medical Director for the hospitalist group Sound Physicians in Coral Springs. "Physicians haven't necessarily had training in how to be an effective leader. It doesn't matter whether you're right out of residency or have been practicing for years. The KMA Leadership Academy is an opportunity to bring new leaders and front-line physicians into the conversation. That's the whole point. The more physicians you have in that conversation, the better."
While the conversation in medicine is often about health care's dizzying evolution and its impact on physicians, there's a common thread of optimism among Academy participants and graduates.
"I think this is a really exciting time," Dr. Alexander said. "We get very busy as physicians and work with tons of people who are like, 'You're going to take care of that, right?' We need your help, too. It's being at the table instead of on the menu."
UF Health cardiologist David Winchester, M.D., a 2013 Academy graduate, encouraged the new class to take the long view for the good of medicine and their own.
"You're going to be in this profession for the next 20, 30 years," said Dr. Winchester, also an Assistant Professor in the University of Florida College of Medicine "You need to be here and make your voices heard so that you can guide that change over the course of your career."
Amra Resic, M.D., a family medicine physician with Morton Plant Mease Primary Care in Palm Harbor, relishes the challenge.
"I love change," said Dr. Resic, a 2016 Academy graduate who was part of the panel. "Either you love it or you hate it. The person who loves it flourishes in an environment of change. I'm a very positive person, so I'm not going to sit there and be negative saying, 'This isn't going to work' and fight against it."
And in the midst of these changes, Dr. Resic said young physicians have something vital to contribute: Passion. She urged the 2016-2017 class to use the Academy as a springboard for turning their passion into action.
"If you have an interest and feel a certain way about an issue, you can find your path and move forward," she said.
Article reprinted from Florida Medical Magazine with permission from the Florida Medical Association.