The Physicians Foundation awarded a grant to the Palm Beach County Medical Society (PBCMS) Physician Leadership Academy of South Florida (PLA) to support its leadership education program. Karen Harwood, care coordination services director, shares how the PBCMS plans to enhance the leadership skills of Florida’s physicians with a curriculum focused on enhancing participants’ understanding of leadership behavior.

Q. What is the Physician Leadership Academy of South Florida (PLA) and what is its purpose?

Palm Beach County Medical Society (PBCMS), in collaboration with Broward County Medical Association (BCMA) and Dade County Medical Association (DCMA) facilitates a 40-hour leadership education program. Over the course of seven months, physicians learn the value of physician leadership roles and strategies to embrace opportunities. The program starts with a full day retreat, followed by monthly sessions. Participants develop team projects throughout the program, which are presented at the last session. An advisory committee with representation from PBCMS, BCMA and DCMA guides program development and team project ideas. Feedback from participants following sessions and program completion helps to guide curriculum adjustments. PLA offers physicians excellent education opportunities to learn how to more effectively communicate, address burnout, build high impact healthcare teams and become transformational, as opposed to transactional, leaders. Physicians are eager to have this opportunity to enhance and build their leadership skills and techniques.

Q. How is the program curriculum designed to enhance physicians’ leadership knowledge and skills? Please share a few examples.

PLA enhances physician knowledge of communication strategies, conflict resolution, the impact of advocacy and public policy, tools to manage burnout, emerging trends and cultural competency. Participants explore the Leadership Challenge – The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership to enhance their understanding of leadership behavior. The physicians are also given the opportunity to practice learned communication skills through filmed interviews facilitated during a program session. In another session, a panel of legislative representatives from the three participating counties provide insight into advocacy impact for participants during the Public Policy session. These experiential opportunities broaden physician understanding of leadership opportunities and effectiveness.

Q. What criteria is considered in order to participate in the program?

Physician members of PBCMS, BCMA and DCMA are eligible to apply. They submit an application and CV. The Advisory Committee reviews submitted applications and selects six participants from each of the three counties. Commitment to attend all sessions is required for program participation.

Q. What is your long-term vision for the program?

Through creating dialogues with other medical associations in the state, the Palm Beach County Medical Society will be able to share what it’s learned from the PLA experience. We hope that a network of physician leadership programs may be developed so that all programs may have an opportunity to share and discover best leadership physician education practices.

Q. How has the grant from the Physicians Foundation helped support the PLA?

The Physician Foundation support provides physicians an excellent educational opportunity to learn how to more effectively communicate, build high impact healthcare teams and become transformational leaders. Thirty-six physicians received more than 40 CMEs through the Florida Medical Association over a two-year period. We hear from past participants that the program gave them the confidence to embrace leadership opportunities.  Participants share that the Physician Leadership Academy has covered the key aspects of leadership competencies and has been helpful in career aspirations. One physician shared that she now finds solutions rather than complaining about challenges that arise and has a better understanding of how politics can influence healthcare policy. The program has enhanced and developed leadership skills, transformed thought process, expanded vision and strengthened team and leadership strategies. “It was a unique experience and I found it very rewarding,” said one participant. Palm Beach County Medical Society is grateful for grant funding received.