How do you make a physician leader?

No one believes there are "born" physician leaders. While leadership skills may come naturally to some physicians, most still have to learn about management, communication, and even about running a business in general. Where can you turn for help? Here are six sources:

Existing advisers.

Barbara Kostick, MD, FAAFP, a family practitioner in Fremont, CA, who leads her five-doctor practice, says she found help from her practice’s accountant and lawyer. "They are already familiar with your practice and have more business know-how than you do," she says.

Your academy.

The California Academy of Family Physicians, for example, offers a physician leadership seminar twice a year, says Susan Hogeland, CAE, executive director of the academy. The three day program — which includes 16.5 hours of Category 1 CME credits — helps physicians assess their leadership skills and weaknesses, she says, and relies on faculty and peer group feedback to improve skills. Hogeland says that the program ends with each participant developing a personal plan to help develop the skills identified during the course. The course costs $1,300 to $1,400 depending on when registration is made. Further information is available by calling the academy at (415) 394-9121.

Management organizations.

Kostick also recommends contacting the Medical Group Management Association in Englewood, CO, at (303) 799-1111. It offers a variety of publications and classes.

Michael Robinowitz, MD, FACOG, chairman of the board of the Meridian Medical Group in Atlanta, found his best help from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) of Tampa, FL. Telephone: (800) 562-8088.

The American Medical Group Association in Alexandria, VA also has management courses available to members. Information on membership is available by calling (703) 838-0033. The Seal Beach, CA, office can provide information on courses offered. It can be reached at (562) 430-1191.

One of Robinowitz’s favorite classes was Physicians in Management, a week-long class offered through the ACPE. It provides information and training in negotiation, confrontation management, human resources issues, and marketing. "It has all sorts of things to make running a practice easier," he says.

The courses, which fill up about four months in advance, cost $1,295 for members of the college and $1,345 for nonmembers. It offers 31 CME hours, and the next available courses are in Kansas City, MO, in June; Chicago in August; and Newport Beach, CA, and Atlanta in September. For more information, call: (800) 562-8088.

Management books.

One of the best sources of information Robinowitz found when he was thrown into a leadership position was Fundamentals of Medical Management: A Guide for the New Physician Executive. The book was published by the ACPE in 1993 and costs $40 for members and $50 for nonmembers. He also found help from a book by Irwin Rubin PhD, and C. Ray Fernandez, MD, called My Pulse Is Not What it Used To Be, the Leadership Challenges of Health Care. Published by the Temenos Foundation in Honolulu, further information on cost and availability can be obtained by calling (808) 528-2433.

Community colleges, adult education, or local university extensions.

Virtually every community has some courses available through various sources on how to run a business. "That’s what a practice is," says Kostick. Accounting, computer, and basic business classes can help a physician who really needs to bone up on the basics of business. Some local colleges also offer more esoteric courses on how to improve communications skills — an ability which is vital for a successful physician leader, she says.

Colleagues and friends.

Hogeland says while some practices won’t share information with competitors, others — particularly if you are in a different specialty — may be more willing to provide information to an aspiring physician leader on where they got their skills and knowledge. Managed care organizations may also have some staff who can guide you on what books make for informative reading.