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Academic leadership in dermatology: Heeding to advice from surgical chairs


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By Warren R. Heymann, MD
April 23, 2016


It is irrelevant that the “good old days” of the omniscient chairs of hierarchical departments are a relic of the past. While I will acknowledge that life may have been simpler decades ago, perhaps it was not better (except for the chief!). If you had a time machine and fast-forwarded department chairs to function in today’s medical centers, they wouldn’t last a week. The millennial generation is here and the future is theirs.

If you have the time, please read the outstanding article by Rosengart et al (Key tenets of effective surgery leadership. JAMA Surgery. Published online April 20, 2016). While the focus is on leadership in departments of surgery, the principles espoused are applicable to any academic department, dermatology included.

The authors state that “Millennials’ reported demand for a plausible work-life balance, early and frequent promotion and reward, and rationales for meaning work commitments is juxtaposed with older managerial generations’ fabled respect for authority, unfaltering total commitment to the job, and expectant patience for recognition and advancement.”

Their recommendations for chair leadership is threefold: 1) Collaboration and cooperation (departments cannot be isolated from other departments or the institution itself); 2) Humanized relationships and mentorship (maintaining the emotional IQ skills necessary understand the passions, interests, and expectations of the faculty, while being transparent, fair, and setting realistic goals); and 3) Operational efficiency (advancing the mission of the department and institution by establishing a culture that allows faculty and staff embrace the goals of the department).

I have had the privilege of being the de facto head of the Division of Dermatology for 30 years. I have no doubt that I have changed. As I was raised in the former era (I have no doubt that people would think I’m “old school” in my approach) the fact is that I know I must have learned along the way to incorporate the tenets outlined above, or I would have been asked to leave long ago.

Having two millennial daughters, and being surrounded by millennial residents, I have every confidence that the future is fabulous. They are bright, motivated, technologically savvy, and socially aware. While they may not approach their careers in the way that I did mine, I believe that the world will be a better place with their future leadership.


All content found on Dermatology World Insights and Inquiries, including: text, images, video, audio, or other formats, were created for informational purposes only. The content represents the opinions of the authors and should not be interpreted as the official AAD position on any topic addressed. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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