December 22, 2022
The Physician-Leaders in Tomorrow’s World
The medical field’s inclusion of women has come a long way. Since 2017, the number of female-identifying individuals enrolling and graduating from medical school has met or exceeded (depending on the year) that of their male-identifying counterparts (AAMC data). As of 2020, per the AAFP, women make up roughly 35% of the physician workforce. This representation drops precipitously when we examine physician leader subsets in both private practice (such as Sound Physicians’ practices) and academic settings.
All which is to say, entering medicine is one thing – leading medicine is another proposition altogether.
Literature highlighting challenges women face in career advancement, regardless of how “advancement” is defined, absolutely applies in medicine. Given the broader dialogue around the burden of default household operational management, the assignment of “corporate citizenship” committees with low promotional visibility, and the narrow limits of “executive presence” and “voice,” – the interesting questions are about how we move forward.
How do we cultivate the clinical leadership needed to serve our patient communities best; how do we include global recognition of patients’ many backgrounds and viewpoints? How do we grow the pipeline of young female physicians into healthcare leaders across the board? There is evidence that diversity of perspective at the highest leadership levels (boards, C-Suites) improves organization outcomes – so how do we do what’s right?
One piece of advice that applies to all physicians with personal leadership aspirations is to choose their environments for success. There are many layers of support in the leadership journey. Those at the beginning include mentorship, coaching, and programmatic development (more commonly available). A crucial and sometimes overlooked type of support is what we call “sponsorship.” Sponsorship is advocacy for the grant, the role, the promotion, and the opportunity when you aren’t in the room. That person who obtained a role based on potential when you had to prove your value first? They had a sponsor, but you didn’t – that’s the difference.
That’s the difference in determining how tomorrow’s leaders think, how they show up for patients, and how they carve out a path forward.
For those looking to help shape healthcare well beyond their own careers, look no further than sponsoring the bold and courageous choices in people. My own career has been sponsored at key points by organizational mentors and Sound partners who are committed to crafting the best leadership for the future. It’s just one small way we can all seek to craft the ultimate clinical practice for our patients.