Category Archives: Leadership

Saying Yes Purposefully

Jeff Haney, MD

Jeffrey Haney, MD

It’s on your development plan, it’s one of your New Year’s resolutions, or maybe it’s written on last year’s annual faculty review: “You need to learn how to say no.”

Many of us spend decades practicing self-flagellation for not learning to say no. Consider yourself liberated from this tyranny. Don’t learn to say no. Learn to say yes with purpose.

This idea, saying yes, is not unique—it is all the rage. Oprah swears by it. The Huffington Post has a long-form article on the subject. Even the TV titan, Shonda Rhimes, devoted a TED Talk to the subject. The consistent argument for saying yes—the adventure, rising to a new challenge, learning new things—tickles the carpe diem recesses of our brain. On the surface, saying yes makes sense, but not in isolation. We are aware of the ridiculousness of always saying yes— I am currently picturing my child asking me if he can eat candy for dinner every night this week. So how should we say yes?  

An annual faculty review provided the “Aha!” moment. During the review, I appreciated a faculty member’s willingness to jump in and always say yes. In the next breath, I appreciated her capacity to be clear about her boundaries and engagement in important work of the residency. The next moment was subsumed by my cognitive dissonance—the faculty member always seeming to say yes, possessed a clear set of boundaries. In the haze of thought, I heard myself say, “you are wonderful at saying yes, with purpose!”  I am unsure if it was her conscious practice, but it was a modeled behavior to share to the world.

Saying yes, with a purpose. In saying yes to opportunity tied to purpose, the results are clear and achievable. When the opportunity is not tied to purpose, it can become a vague promise difficult to keep going and nearly impossible to fulfill. The beauty of saying yes with purpose is that it obviates the need to learn how to say no.

One African American Woman’s Leadership Journey

Judy Washington, MD

Judy Washington, MD

To inspire the next generation of underrepresented in medicine (URM) educators, the STFM Foundation is launching a year-long blog series. In the new series, The Path We Took, URM members will share the path they took to become faculty and leaders in family medicine. I’m delighted to kick off the series by sharing my own leadership journey.

One African American Woman’s Leadership Journey

When you have the privilege to serve in leadership, you have the responsibility to reach back and identify other colleagues who would not otherwise have the opportunity to be recognized. You can do this through mentoring, building systems to support the underrepresented, or financially supporting the individuals or the systems that assist them.

When the opportunity was presented to be a cochair of the Minority and Multicultural Health Collaborative, I said “Yes!”  I was fortunate to work with two wonderful African American women as my cochairs. At the time, both of them were rising leaders in their institutions, and I found myself being both a mentor and a mentee. I found their support of me to be crucial in making me the leader I am today.

As we led the collaborative, we found that its mission to increase minority representation had been challenged over the years by declining underrepresented in medicine (URM) membership and active participation. To combat this, our collaborative submitted a proposal, “Quality Mentorship Through STFM,” to the STFM Project Fund and received a $20,000 grant over 2 years. This grant allowed us to mentor new URM faculty and design a reproducible mentoring model. This model has been adopted by the New Faculty Scholars and led to collaboration with the Women in Family Medicine and New Faculty in Family Medicine Collaboratives. Our mentees continue to be visible and active in STFM. Two will soon complete the Emerging Leaders Fellowship.

Around the time of the project, I was asked to become a trustee of the STFM Foundation. My new challenge was to move from being a mentor and system builder to being a fundraiser. Earlier this year,  I became the campaign chair for the URM Campaign. Donations to the URM campaign will support scholarships for students to attend the Conference on Medical Student Education, scholarships for residents to attend the Faculty for Tomorrow Workshop, scholarships for new faculty to attend the STFM Annual Spring Conference, and scholarships for the Emerging Leaders Fellowship. Funds will also be used to provide mentoring opportunities and fund innovative projects that contribute to a diverse family medicine workforce.

For me now, this reaching back goes beyond  STFM. We need to build the next generation of family medicine educators. This means supporting mentoring programs in middle school through college, and in medical school and in residency.  It includes looking to our community preceptors to find those excellent teachers who can transition into URM faculty. We need to increase URM members within STFM to ensure a diverse membership with a robust supply of new leaders to fill needed roles.  

Hashtag Mentorship

Randall Reitz

Randall Reitz, PhD

#researchismypants
#takeitlikeahurdle

Mentorship has been around since the era of The Odyssey.  In the poem, as Odysseus prepares to leave for the Trojan War, he entrusts his son Telemachus to the tutelage of his trusted colleague, named Mentor. Our modern usage of this term extends from Homer’s character, but mentorship has evolved greatly in the nearly 3,000 years since (and now occasionally involves hashtags).

I recently had the privilege of being a small-group mentor with STFM’s Behavioral Science/Family Systems Educator Fellowship (BFEF).  I worked alongside Jill Schneiderhan, MD, to provide guidance to four early career behavioral medicine faculty and it was the highlight of my year.

My own small group was smitten with hashtags. They provided a pithy lingua franca to describe and unify our experiences. The two hashtags at the top of this post linger most in my memory.

#researchismypants came from a tear-filled (joy and sadness) discussion during our final dinner together. One of the fellows declared that she had just sworn off wearing pants. I observed that “research is my pants” and that I had just sworn off research. Neither of us could further abide these noxious crimps on our preferred lifestyle.

#takeitlikeahurdle came from the ride home on Highway 5 after that dinner. One of the fellows observed that she had recently sprinted across the same interstate earlier in the day, yelling for her husband to leap over the median “like a hurdle”.

 

hashtag mentorship

Randall’s BFEF Small Group

 

These hashtags encapsulate much of the tension of early career professionalism. People entering a new field face the dual pressures of being as helpful and generous with their colleagues as possible (to ingratiate themselves to the system). They also need to begin to delimit the scope of their job descriptions so that they maintain sanity and high self-expectations for work quality. The new professional needs to bring both positive energy and expertise to the projects they take on (ie, #takeitlikeahurdle) but also assert the confidence and negotiating skill to decline opportunities that aren’t a great fit (#researchismypants).

Each of the fellows successfully navigated experiences that embodied this tension, whether it was making a tough decision to change residencies for a better fit, standing up to a challenging colleague, enduring with pride the difficulties of relationship strife, or confronting unhealthy expectations from their department. It was an honor to scaffold our mentees during these trials. It was a thrill to watch how our charges came through stronger.

By my estimation, the BFEF Fellowship is an eminent example of modern mentorship.  What does it look like?

  • Intensive face-to-face mentorship at two STFM conferences and the Forum on Behavioral Science Education
  • Individual, small-group, and large-group meetings
  • Monthly small-group phone calls
  • Weekly synchronous and asynchronous points of contact (ie, email, project feedback)
  • A professional learning contract to personalize and guide the experience
  • A community of volunteers that support the mentors

This fellowship is one of many run by STFM, including training programs for leadership, practice transformation, teaching medical students, and medical journalism. These great offerings are constantly looking for faculty, advisors, and trainees, and I highly recommend you apply. Having experienced STFM training as both a mentee and mentor, I can attest to the richness of the experience from both sides.

#mentorshipalwaysevolves
#mentorshipneverchanges