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Abraham Verghese: “It’s a great time for physician leaders to embrace design thinking”

Business_presentation_byVectorOpenStockNext spring, the School of Medicine and Graduate School of Business here will team up to offer a new, one-week residential program for health-care executives. Called "The Innovative Health Care Leader: From Design Thinking to Personal Leadership," the program will be led by Sarah Soule, PhD, co-director of the Center for Social Innovation, and Abraham Verghese, MD, professor of medicine and well-known author.

I recently spoke with Verghese about the program.

This is the first time the two schools have worked together to offer a program like this. How did you get involved? 

I have admired the way the Graduate School of Business puts on continuing education programs - they have become so adept at it - so when Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, asked if I would lead this effort from our end, I was excited.

Stanford is all about learning new things and crossing disciplinary boundaries. This is the first medical school at which I've worked where all seven schools (business, education, law, engineering, medicine, humanities and sciences, and earth, energy and environmental sciences) are on the same campus. I thought this was a great opportunity for me to learn.

Why is this program needed?

The nature of medicine has become so much more than medicine. It's a hugely important industry that consumes so much of our gross domestic product. There are so many things the executive has to know that is related to management, marketing, negotiations and strategy, it's almost inevitable that these two worlds should meet.

But, it's no use having all these strategies if you don't ultimately deliver care in a way that's satisfying to the patient and the people who deliver your care. Medicine is increasingly adopting the robes of business, but it can't get too far away from what is elemental and fundamental, which is patient care. Every time it does, a disaster follows.

You're best known for your advocacy of personal, bedside medicine. Why not have a professor who specializes in health-care economics or management lead the program?

I think it's quite an appropriate role for some who has championed the patient-physician relationship and has been concerned about physician wellness. I'm involved because the patient is at the center, the ultimate beneficiary.

One of the startling things about health care these days is the strange dichotomy between our amazing technologies, therapies and discoveries and yet patients who are as a whole more dissatisfied than ever with the face of medicine, the cost of medicine and the lack of coordination of care. It's also a time when many physicians are trying to figure out why the joy in medicine has left. For all those reasons, it's a great time for physician leaders to embrace everything from design thinking to their own wellness.

Looking at it from my lens as a physician-leader of sorts in the educational field, I wish that I'd had the opportunity to attend something like this, using design thinking to examine how to lead in an environment that's constantly changing, to hear from experts at the business school who talk about negotiating or about personal leadership and vision.

Verghese said he'd go in a "heartbeat" to attend some of the program's scheduled speakers, including Dean Minor; epidemiologist John Ioannidis, MD, DSc; Doug Owens, MD, director of health policy; and Christy Sandborg, MD, professor of pediatrics.

Previously: Abraham Verghese: "There is no panacea for an investment of time at the bedside with students", Physician-author Abraham Verghese encourages journalists to tell the powerful stories of medicine and A "grand romp through medicine and metaphor" with Abraham Verghese
Image by Vector Open Stock

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