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The Physicians Foundation awarded a grant in 2012 to the South Dakota State Medical Association (SDSMA) Foundation to launch the South Dakota Center for Physician Resources. This center offers innovative programs and educational tools to assist physicians in their care of patients and in reaching their personal and professional development goals. In 2013, the SDSMA Foundation received an additional grant from the Physicians Foundation to develop the leadership component of the center, called the Health Leadership Institute. Mark East, Vice President of the South Dakota Medical Association, discusses the center’s impact on local physicians.

Q: Please tell us a bit about the grant and how it was utilized.

A: Our most recent grant from the Physicians Foundation was utilized to establish the South Dakota State Medical Association (SDSMA) Center for Physician Resources, Health Leadership Institute (HLI). The HLI is a new SDSMA Foundation initiative that aims to prepare physicians to lead in the transformation of health care delivery. Through learning and developing knowledge, skills, insights, relationships and confidence, physicians are able to bring the necessary clinical perspective to decisions essential in the delivery of quality, efficient, and cost-effective patient care.

Q: Why is your physician leadership project important in today’s healthcare environment?

A: As health care becomes increasingly complex, the need for physician leaders to manage change is critical. This is especially true with the transformation toward team-based health care and a patient-centered medical home (PCMH) delivery model – a setting in which primary care providers coordinate and/or integrate all elements of patient care across the health care system (e.g., subspecialty care, hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes) and the patient’s community (e.g., family, public and private community-based services).

HLI will offer a new and effective way to prepare health care professionals to lead change in today’s increasingly complex and dynamic health care environment. The HLI will prepare clinicians to assume roles of greater influence and authority by providing practical, hands-on opportunities to drive change in their medical practices, agencies, hospitals, systems, and in the public policy arena. The programs/courses offered through the HLI will focus on a set of core competencies identified by the HLI’s physician-led planning committee. These competencies are essential for any physician engaged in leading system transformation.

Q: How has the grant helped improve healthcare in the community?

A: Leadership skills are typically not taught in medical school and, as a result, many physicians are reluctant to accept leadership positions or are ill-equipped to be effective leaders. However, as health care continues to evolve, the need for physician leaders becomes even more essential. Our leadership program allows physician leaders to become stronger advocates for patients and health care quality improvement.  In addition, they become more active within their respective communities and the medical profession as a whole.

Q: How has this program helped to re-engage physicians and inspire physician leadership?

A: It is important to note that our Center for Physician Resources focuses on three main pillars – professional practice, personal health and wellness, and leadership and advocacy. By offering educational programs and resources to our member physicians, we believe we are having a positive impact on their lives. To date, we have conducted a number of programs aimed at helping physicians in their professional practice as well as with stress management and achieving a work/life balance. By offering these programs – to include our forthcoming leadership program – we are engaging physicians in topics that are of interest to them. We are also helping them become more engaged in their profession and giving them an opportunity to advocate for issues that impact their practice environment.

Q:  How would you compare physician leadership challenges in South Dakota to the rest of the country?

A: We likely have similar challenges to other states; however, it’s important to note that much of our state is rural so it can be difficult for physicians to travel great distances for educational/leadership programming opportunities. The SDSMA Center for Physician Resources HLI Foundational Leadership Program will be delivered via a sponsoring organization or community-based/regional model over an approximate one-year period – it is our intent to take the programming to them.  An educational session will be delivered every other month, and in total six sessions will be delivered.  The educational sessions will be facilitated and in-person.  HLI learning outcomes include:

  • Learn the language of business to influence more effectively the healthcare system at the organizational level
  • Transform/paradigm shift participants from a clinical role to include a systems view, and role of leader/patient advocate