As District IX immediate past chair, Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, starts her tenure as the 64th president of ACOG, it is an appropriate time to write about leadership. Dr. Conry will lead our national organization with the mantra “Every Woman, Every Time.” It relates to her initiative to enhance well-woman care with recognition of the importance of interconception and preconception care.
ACOG has taken a more in-depth look at leadership in the recent year. At the 2013 Annual Clinical Meeting, Sandra A. Carson, MD, ACOG vice president of education, and Barbara S. Levy, MD, ACOG vice president of health policy, advocacy division, gave an inspiring presentation on leadership paths. ACOG Immediate Past President James T. Breeden, MD, created a leadership task force designed to look at barriers to leadership advancement and successful leadership development tools. The Congress Advisory Council was given a preview of the task force’s discoveries at its meeting at the ACM.
One of the most successful programs for leadership development is the ACOG Robert C. Cefalo National Leadership Institute. Approximately 40 ACOG Fellows and Junior Fellows participate in this intensive four-day course each year in North Carolina. The program is designed to arm physicians with tools to lead transformation in the 21st century for women’s health care. It does such an excellent job of educating members on the skills needed to lead in today’s world that many ACOG districts have held the course locally for members.
With all this attention on leadership, I’ve found that certain pearls of wisdom are repeated often:
- It is important for physicians to be leaders in medicine. We all lead our patients’ care, and we should broaden that leadership to the health care system. As Dr. Carson said in her presentation at the ACM, “Physicians must lead American medicine into the future. We can’t shrug this off. We must develop the skills necessary for leadership, stop putting our heads in the sand, and take back health care.”
- A leadership path is rarely a straight ladder that is climbed steadily. There are rest stops and chutes. Although businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg would tell us to “lean in” at every opportunity, sometimes life circumstances dictate that we balance that lean. According to Dr. Levy, “Sometimes people have trouble recognizing that the path toward one’s goals is not a steady, upward incline. It’s not an escalator, it’s a jungle gym.” I encourage you to be mindful to embrace and enjoy your time on the playground.
- Many times, progression on the path to leadership is guided by good fortune and timing. Opportunities appear at unanticipated times and are grasped depending on life circumstances.
Dr. Conry may well have been born with genes for potential leadership; nonetheless, she had the good fortune of skilled mentors who actively supported her and her leadership development. She is the mentor now. Dr. Conry provides us with a role model for leadership in medicine and acknowledges that she’s spent time on her own “jungle gym.” She has taken advantage of her opportunities, and we look forward to the fruits of her presidential year.