The University Record, January 23, 1996

Panel discusses challenges of leadership in changing healthcare

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services 

The sweeping changes in healthcare now under way are accompanied by challenges to healthcare activists, who must examine change from the point of view of patients, "particularly the uninsured and the underserved," said Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, president of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in South Central Los Angeles.

Tuckson was speaking on "Healthcare Activism: Providing Leadership in a Time of Change," as part of the U-M's celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"Is it inevitable that, as we move toward a more corporate healthcare model, we will be caught in a contradiction? Perhaps," he said, noting that the American Medical Association had agreed to support retrenchment and cut-backs as "long as physicians had the right to own secondary businesses"---laboratories to which they could make referrals.

"On the other hand, it is possible that population-based surveys related to patient satisfaction could actually improve health care," Tuckson added.

Healthcare leaders must have certain qualities, he said. "Leaders are like the conductors of orchestras. They have lots of people to help, but they ultimately have the ability to influence the conduct of an institution.

"They also should remember what Dr. King taught--- you should not expect [all your efforts] to come out right. You can do all the right things and it may still not turn out well. You must appreciate that in doing the work itself lies your salvation. Keep faith with the values that drove you to your careers."
More specifically, Tuckson said:

 

Leaders must be grounded in principles larger than themselves, "not locked into fear of what is going to happen to them. They must put their patients first."

 

They must be able to transform their personal vision into an organizational vision. They must make their vision clear to others to inspire them, and then develop an infrastructure to support the vision.

 

Today's leaders must be "highly collaborative people who know how to listen. Preventive medicine requires "an integrated team of cross-disciplinary professionals, both internally and externally."

 

They must be trustworthy and supremely proficient in their roles. "Healthcare leaders must know what they are talking about and be very good technically. Patients now know how to work the World Wide Web for information. When they come to the doctor, they are coming armed with knowledge and you must collaborate."

The seminar was sponsored by the schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, Social Work, the U-M Hospitals and the Office of the Vice Provost for Health Affairs.