Last weekend, I attended the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) annual meeting in Seattle with six other UNLV School of Medicine faculty members. The theme of this year's meeting was "
Learn Serve Lead 2016
" More than 4,000 medical educators, deans, students, academic hospital CEOs, and other hospital representatives attended the meeting - I thoroughly enjoyed seeing old colleagues and meeting new ones.
The UNLV School of Medicine was able to join the AAMC after achieving preliminary accreditation in October. AAMC membership includes all U.S. and Canadian M.D. degree granting medical schools. It's an invaluable resource for medical educators.
One of the highlights of the meeting was a plenary session on "Leadership Lessons from the White House" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin. She was a White House intern under President Lyndon Johnson and later helped him organize his memoirs.
Her presentation was devoted to comparing, contrasting and analyzing three past presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She kept returning to what she thought contributed to, and forged, their leadership ability. It was the one quality they all had: "resilience". Resilience by definition means the ability of a substance to spring back into shape; elasticity; and the capacity to recover from difficulties; toughness.
Abraham Lincoln's story struck me the most. Essentially self-taught with less than 12 months of actual education, he suffered from depression, many family deaths, and political setbacks. He was able to persevere by setting a course of integrity and honesty as part of his leadership style. He included the best possible individuals in his cabinet, some of whiom were political rivals who he respected and grew to trust. He kept his friends close and his enemies closer.
As a child, Teddy Roosevelt was asthmatic, sedentary, and very intellectual. His father told him that he needed a tough body as well as a strong mind. Teddy worked hard to build his physical strength, which led to his love of sports and the outdoors.
FDR was a late-blooming leader, but in his thirties went into politics with determination. He then overcame a severe case of polio and spent the rest of his life paralyzed from the waist down. Both President Roosevelts were challenged by physical issues but managed to accomplish much inspite of them.
Leaders must see the possibilities in the future, work through adversities and their own mistakes, and bounce back to lead effectively through difficulty
. Goodwin discussed many mistakes made by these three presidents and how they pushed through these toward the future.
All three, especially Lincoln, wanted to leave a legacy behind so people would remember them. They each did -- a reunited United States, the national park system, and the preservation of western democracy, among many others. While each of us may leave a more modest legacy by being remembered by friends and family, it is important for leaders to learn from the past and decide how best to leave their own individual legacy, whatever that might be.
Council of Deans
Since joining the AAMC again, I am now a member of the Council of Deans (COD). It was a pleasure seeing the friends I made during my time as dean of Drexel University College of Medicine, and more recently, the University of Kansas School of Medicine. I also enjoyed meeting new deans. In this year alone, the nation's 147 medical schools have appointed 31 new deans. The average length of service of a medical school dean is 4.2 years. This seems short, but when I first started as dean in 1996, it was even shorter -- closer to three years.
The current 147 medical schools represent a big expansion over the last eight years. When I first joined the COD, in 1996, there were only 123 medical schools and I was only the second female dean at the time. By the end of my first year, there were four. This year there are 22. While this is a big improvement, it is still a relatively small number overall, considering women have made up nearly half of all medical students for the last 25 years.
Innovations in Medical Education
The AAMC provided a fantastic opportunity for medical education leaders to come together to share best practices, discuss current issues, and learn from each other. One session I especially enjoyed was an "ignite-style" session with the other deans who discussed innovative programs happening at their schools. It was exciting to hear about new ideas and programs, some of which we already do, and others I want to implement at UNLV School of Medicine.
It was a fantastic learning experience and underscored again how much I love medical education and putting new ideas into practice to ensure we have the best physicians possible for the future.