The Physician as Leader

LM600.0: The Physician as Leader

Credits: 4.00 CREDITS (Non-clinical Elective)

Offered: March 2019, October 2019

Time: TBA

Location: TBA

Open to Exclerks: No (HMS only)


Description:This month-long elective will offer post-clerkship (third, fourth and fifth year) medical students exposure to a portfolio of concepts and skills that will contribute to their professional development as health care managers and leaders. Health care delivery and the roles of health professionals are evolving rapidly; there is now a greater need than ever for physicians to manage and lead effectively within complex organizations. This class will be organized around a set of inter-related themes: leadership, team building and teamwork, organizational culture, change management, innovation, patient safety and quality improvement, and design thinking. These themes will be illustrated in a number of different contexts, including primary care, clinical specialty practice, product/technology development, and global health. Instructors will use multiple teaching formats to link underlying concepts to practical skills. Class sessions will be led by a mix of HMS faculty, faculty from other Harvard schools, and invited guests who are experienced leaders and managers. Students will complete a team project during the course.


Course Directors:
1. Erin E. Sullivan PhD, HMS Center for Primary Care and HMS Department of Global Health & Social Medicine
2. Meghan Dierks MD, HMS and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center;
3. Stan Finkelstein MD SM, HMS and Harvard MD/MBA Joint Degree Program 


Learning Objectives:

  1. Expose students to fundamental approaches to understanding how systems and organizations work, and how to make them work better;
  2. Describe basic frameworks for leadership; allow students to identify and work to develop his/her own leadership style;
  3. Prepare students to effectively work within teams, including building, participating in, and managing high performing, results-focused teams;
  4. Explore well aligned, high performance organizations and the challenges of leading change in organizations;
  5. Apply basic management skills to the analysis of real-life leadership challenges via the Harvard Business School case method;
  6. Provide an opportunity for students to apply leadership and teamwork concepts to a month-long team project and practice public speaking/communication skills in the final presentation;
  7. Assess different methods of working within and beyond the structure and constraints of the current health system to create an optimal system design for improved health, engaged and enabled patients, efficient care delivery, lower costs, and thriving teams (the Quadruple Aim).   


Experiences: Some class sessions will include residents from area hospitals reflecting on leadership in practice; some sessions will feature invited HMS alumni discussing their career/leadership trajectories and experiences since graduation

Teaching Style: Multiple formats including business school cases, simulation, group/hands-on activities and skill-based training, mini-lectures, informal Q&A with guest speakers, and class discussion

Deliverables: Team project in students’ areas of interest (final presentation on last day of class) and reflective essay on the learning experience

Skill Development: identifying your leadership style, building teams, communicating a vision, motivating others, negotiation, resilience and adaptive leadership, quality improvement tools, design thinking, and business case analysis

Incorporation of Basic Science Content and Evidence-Based Medicine: N/A



Students will be evaluated on in-class participation and contribution, completion and presentation of the team project, and completion of a reflective essay. Attendance at all class sessions is mandatory.
Feedback from faculty and fellow students will be provided in real-time as part of class sessions. Office hours will be held for student meetings and feedback.


Grade Criteria:

S- Satisfactory advanced preparation as well as in-class participation and contribution. Satisfactory completion and presentation of field project. Attendance at all class sessions.
U- Inadequate performance in the above.