Phyllis Williams MSMA

The Physicians Foundation awarded a grant to the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) Physician Leadership Academy to support its leadership development efforts. Phyllis Williams, Director of Practice Strategies, shares how the MSMA plans to enhance the leadership skills of Mississippi’s physicians with a curriculum focused on negotiation, communication and advocacy.

Q. What is the Mississippi State Medical Association Physician Leadership Academy and what is its purpose?

The Mississippi State Medical Association Physician Leadership Academy prepares leaders to rise to the challenge of addressing the complex and multidimensional issues facing medical organizations by helping them understand themselves, appreciate the different perspectives of others, build relationships, develop and work with teams and use strategic thinking and planning.

The purpose of this program is to develop and support emerging physician leaders to enhance their leadership skills and provide training in core aptitudes to excel as future leaders, in their own practices, in organized medicine and the public policy arena.

Q. How is the program curriculum designed to strengthen the leadership skills of Mississippi physicians? Please share a few examples.

To ensure each portion of the Physician Leadership Academy is meeting the desired objectives for our vision and that of our participants, we evaluate and seek input from past graduates. We want to be sure the curriculum is relevant and can be incorporated into their practice. We want this program to be that initial step to inspiring physicians to focus more on leadership lessons.

Our current curriculum as described below was developed to address the needs of our members:

  • The Practice of Leadership: Self-Awareness as the Gateway to Effective, Authentic Influence

Leadership begins with an honest recognition of one’s strengths, motivations, preferences, and shortcomings.  This self-awareness, in turn, enables the leader to better manage their own reactivity, to accurately gauge others’ needs and interests, and to interact with others more effectively.

  • A Leader’s Guide to Better Conflict Management

Effective leaders must master the skills needed for reducing and eventually eliminating disruptive behavior and its negative consequences.

  • Working with the Media and Public Speaking for Physician Leaders

This session focuses on helping the participants assess their own communication style and skill, learn how to become active listeners, how to promote dialogue, and how to enhance non-verbal communication ability.

  • Advocacy Day

Each participant serves as Doctor of the Day at our state capitol where they are introduced in the Senate and House chambers and we arrange for them to meet their state legislative leaders and advocate for medical causes.

  • The Six Secrets of Power Negotiators: Winning Strategies and Tactics for Physicians

Participants learn successful strategies of experienced negotiators with proven theory to help:

  • Prepare for negotiations more effectively
  • Focus on problems and not on personalities
  • Avoid typical “win-lose” situations
  • Deal better with those who play outside the rules.


  • Collaboration & Influence: Leadership in Action

This final session integrates the previous lessons with the knowledge that physicians are leaders and are in a prime position to make important changes in their local community as well as at a state level.

Q. What criteria are considered in order to be accepted to the program?

Participants in the program must be a member in good standing with the Mississippi State Medical Association and committed to attending all sessions.  They must be nominated by a component or specialty medical society, medical practice, hospital or health plan.  The program is limited to 18 participants.

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

Whether it’s inspiring and increasing the capacity of established leaders, propelling the potential of emerging leaders to action, attracting and engaging new members of the organization or providing a forum for people interested in the Mississippi State Medical Association’s momentum, our vision for the Physician Leadership Academy is to drive physician leaders to action and encourage them to be active participants in the success of health care in Mississippi. We plan to do this by growing the number of opportunities for leadership lessons through continuously providing articles and educational offerings as well as providing programs to medical students and residents.

Q. How has the grant from the Physicians Foundation helped support the MSMA Physician Leadership Academy?

Physicians by definition are leaders, but they aren’t formally trained in leadership. The grant from the Physicians Foundation formed the groundwork that’s allowed the MSMA Physician Leadership Academy to provide the lessons and skills training from experts to broaden the participant’s knowledge of leadership theories and principles. It’s further helped participants develop supervisory, managerial and stakeholder skills. The learning process generated by this grant is exponential.