How can organizations develop physician leaders?

Marilu Bintz, MD, MBA, FACS; Vice President of Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin

In order to have really good physician leadership, you must develop those leaders. You must do it consciously, deliberately. You must take the facets of leadership that your organization values and you have to train physicians to understand how to leverage their talents to be leaders. That’s not something we’re taught in medical school.

Then, really putting those physicians in positions of leadership. Not just, oh sure, you can have input into the discussion or you can sit at the table and chat a bit, but it has to be about embedding physicians in the decision-making processes. Embedding physicians in truly taking the organization in a strategic direction, not just “well, this is what would be good for the docs.” It’s about what’s good for the organization.

I think that’s the underpinning of what we do at Gundersen, and it is what I recommend for any organization, but it starts with senior leadership. You must have a commitment on the part of your boards and your senior leaders that physician leadership is important. That’s really critical. Whenever you develop a physician-led organization, pair those physicians with an administrative partner. We’re great believers in the medical-administrator partnership — the dyad model of leadership — because what it does is bring two people with very complementary talents into a partnership, and you leverage both. It’s a terrific model, and I know that at Gundersen we would highly recommend it.