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Leading from the front: leadership lessons MDs have learned focus of new book

For MDs seeking a crash course in physician leadership, the 14 stories told in a new book from the CMA and Canadian Society of Physician Executives would be a good place to start.

Leading from the front: experiences of Canadian physician leaders has been written by doctors whose careers have taken them to places as diverse as the floor of the House of Commons and the battlefields of Afghanistan.

In one chapter, a physician three months into a new leadership position at a regional health authority in Newfoundland and Labrador is faced with a major crisis involving breast cancer test results. "Even now," writes Dr. Oscar Howell of Eastern Health, "I start my day by listening to the first newscast, which is at 6 am, and it certainly was a thrill when we weren't the lead story for the day."

Later in the book, a Saskatoon urologist explains that physicians need to be aware that their leadership efforts may have some unintended consequences. "To some degree, we were victims of our own success," writes Dr. Kishore Visvanathan, a urologist who was one of the leaders in an effort to cut patients' wait times. "As word spread that our clinic was trying to improve access, we began to receive referrals from physicians in southern Saskatchewan - beyond our traditional referral base. All these factors shifted the balance between demand and capacity."

The other authors range from obstetrician Jean Chamberlain Froese, executive director of Save the Mothers, to Dr. Graham Sher, the CEO at Canadian Blood Services.

Sher probably offers the book's most succinct advice about the pursuit of leadership roles. "What advice do I have for young physicians? Go for it!"

Dr. Jack Kitts, president and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital, says leadership opportunities for physicians are expanding quickly. "I believe that a high-performing, sustainable health system that Canadians can once again be proud of can only happen if physicians choose to lead the way," he writes in the book's Foreword. "And if physicians are going to lead the way and truly challenge the tyranny of the status quo, we must encourage and support physician leadership development."

Kitts says the new book does just that.

"It illustrates the many ways physicians may choose to lead, the various paths a physician may take to leadership and how rewarding a leadership role can be."

Leading from the front: experiences of Canadian physician leaders can be read online free of charge; print copies are also available ($19.95).

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.