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The Emergence of the Physician Leader

Administrative MedicineWhat do the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, the Geisinger Health System, and Partners HealthCare have in common? Yes, they are all well-known and highly prestigious healthcare organizations that provide cutting-edge medical care to millions of patients every year. What you may not know, however, is that each of these institutions is led by actual physicians. Though traditionally not thought of as having business leadership skills, physicians are transitioning into management roles in ever-increasing numbers. The rise of the physician leader is a response to the many significant changes that have taken place in the healthcare industry in recent years. For example, healthcare spending in the United States currently constitutes approximately 20 percent of GDP – the highest of any country according to The World Bank. Crushing costs, combined with other emerging challenges such as a rapidly aging population and the explosive growth of medical knowledge, have opened up C-suite opportunities for physicians who possess both clinical skills and leadership acumen.

It is now common for a physician looking to take on a leadership role to seek out formal business training. Dozens of universities across the United States have even developed specialized MBA programs tailored for medical doctors. Possessing an MBA in addition to a medical degree can help set a candidate apart for a leadership position, and indeed, more and more healthcare organizations actively seek to fill senior executive positions with individuals who have both business and medical training.

Another highly effective way for a physician to demonstrate to a prospective employer that he or she possesses a thorough understanding of the business side of medicine is to become board certified through the American Board of Administration Medicine℠. A Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS), the ABAM was developed to formally recognize physicians with experience in business leadership and management. ABAM Diplomates include physicians who manage their own practices as well as physician CEOs who lead large hospitals and other healthcare organizations. By becoming board certified through the ABAM, a physician leader is able to demonstrate that he or she has a highly valuable skill set that will only continue to grow in importance as the healthcare industry becomes more complex. Eligible candidates must have either an MBA in business administration, health administration, or medical management, or at least five years of cumulative experience in an administrative position. All eligibility requirements, exam description, exam schedule, and fees are available here.

Like it or not, the healthcare industry is rapidly changing. Critical to the goal of providing high-quality yet affordable care to millions of people across America is effective leadership from medical doctors who have the ability to steer the industry in the right direction. Legislative reform has opened up many opportunities for physician leaders to leverage their unique skill sets for the benefit of healthcare organizations and the people they serve. Do you have what it takes to thrive in a leadership role?