The dean as spiritual leader

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Abstract

These are hard times for medical school deans--high turnover among deans, the fiscal distress of many medical schools, the gap between what deans expect the job will be and what is required of them, the stark differences between what the job of dean is today and what it was in the past, and the threats to the academic missions of education and research. Using stories, anecdotes, and parables, the authors illustrates how these very difficulties might be an opportunity to rethink the role of deans and to re-examine the attributes and skills required of successful deans today. The ultimate goals of medical education have not changed, but the drastic nature of the changes taking place all around, and within, medical education make it more critical than ever to keep in mind what is really important. Deans must be exquisitely attuned to what is really important and they must make sure that the academic medical community never loses sight of what that is. To do that, deans must be deeply rooted personally in the enduring values and commitments that inform medicine as a profession and a vocation and in the fundamental values of medical education and scholarship; they must personify and embody these values; and they must remind us of these values and inspire us to embrace them and be guided by them. This is the sense in which deans must be “spiritual” leaders--that is, through their personal example, they must rekindle and engage the spirit of those working on behalf of the academic mission. While the need for fiscal expertise, management skills, and diplomatic and interpersonal skills in deans is widely acknowledged, the need for sensitivity to the spiritual dimensions of the work of deans has not received the attention it deserves.

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