Medical School Factors That Prepare Students to Become Leaders in Medicine

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Abstract

Purpose

To identify medical school factors graduates in major leadership positions perceive as contributing to their leadership development.

Method

Using a phenomenological, qualitative approach, in August–November 2015 the authors conducted semistructured interviews with 48 medical leaders who were 1976–1999 baccalaureate–MD graduates of the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine (UMKC). At UMKC, they participated in longitudinal learning communities, the centerpiece for learning professional values and behaviors plus clinical skills, knowledge, and judgment, but received no formal leadership instruction. The authors subjected interview comments to directed, largely qualitative content analysis with iterative coding cycles.

Results

Most graduates said their experiences and the people at UMKC positively influenced their leadership growth. Medical school factors that emerged as contributing to that growth were the longitudinal learning communities including docents, junior–senior partners, and team experiences; expectations set for students to achieve; a clinically oriented but integrated curriculum; admission policies seeking students with academic and nonacademic qualifications; supportive student–student and student–faculty relationships; and a positive overall learning environment. Graduates viewed a combination of factors as best preparing them for leadership and excellence in clinical medicine; together these factors enabled them to assume leadership opportunities after graduation.

Conclusions

This study adds medical leaders’ perspective to the leadership development literature and offers guidance from theory and practice for medical schools to consider in shaping leadership education: Namely, informal leadership preparation coupled with extensive longitudinal clinical education in a nurturing, authentic environment can develop students effectively for leadership in medicine.

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