Jun 30, 2011

Lessons Learned from the IHI Open School Student Leadership Academy

On June 24 and 25, many healthcare students and professionals converged on Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, for a two-day forum on leadership. I think I speak for more than just myself when I say the weekend was fantastic -- both highly entertaining and educational. Our moderator for the weekend was Dr. James Reinertsen, the former CEO of CareGroup and current president of The Reinertsen Group. Over the two busy days of the conference, somehow his energy never flagged, and he was able to keep us energized and engaged. At the end of the weekend, Dr. Reinertsen left us with a parting message on life-long learning and how there are three equally important components of it:
  1. The continuous acquisition of knowledge

  2. Personal experiences

  3. Reflection on the first two parts

So, just for you Dr. Reinertsen, these are my reflections on the incredible amount that I learned and the wonderful experience I had during those two days in Harvard Square:

The easiest, but perhaps most complicated place to start is to ask, "What did I learn?" Through didactic sessions, I learned conflict management (I wasn't surprised to find that I'm an avoider) and how to take a walk in the woods (a negotiation technique, actually). Through the lectures and anecdotes from the invited speakers, I learned about how to lead through a crisis (like a massive computer system crash), how to lead without authority, and the benefit of a fancy job title. Through exercises, I learned how to effectively have awkward conversations (like dumping a guy or firing an employee) and how to assess the safety of a patient care unit by observing its teamwork. All of these skills I anticipate using throughout my career and life.

While the lectures were useful and enlightening, I would be greatly remiss if I didn't discuss everything I learned from the other participants, the other students. We were assigned seating right from the start to force us to meet people we might not have interacted with otherwise. I ended up sitting with one other medical student, a psychology student, two nursing students, and three healthcare administration students. This medley of backgrounds and people's unique experiences made the discussion very lively. It was eye-opening to hear everyone's perspective on a problem because they could be so different from my own. Looking back, it makes me really appreciate a drawing that Dr. Barry Dorn (one of the speakers) made of a cone in a box which highlighted an important lesson: Where you are looking from greatly influences what you see.

Needless to say, I learned a lot this past weekend, both from the speakers and from my peers. The lessons I learned are not found in textbooks or medical school lectures even though they are critical to our future work. I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the Leadership Academy. The knowledge and experiences that I gained are definitely going to stick with me as I continue on my path toward becoming a physician.

- Aubrey Samost, University of Massachusetts