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Stepping up

Academy’s leadership programs position dermatologists for success


By Ruth Carol, Contributing Writer, June 1, 2022

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Are you unsure of the direction you want your career to go? Could you use help navigating the world of academia? Do you want to hone your leadership and communication skills? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the AAD can help.

The Academy’s Leadership Institute provides training, mentoring, and networking opportunities designed to help dermatologists develop and enhance their leadership skills to make them successful in their careers and in life. From educational sessions at the Annual Meeting and Innovation Academy, to the annual Leadership Forum, these comprehensive programs are based on teaching core competencies that form the basis of effective leadership, said Kari Webb, manager of Strategy and Alliances at the AAD. The Leadership Forum, Academic Dermatology Leadership Program (ADLP), and Advanced Leadership Forum are the foundation of the Leadership Institute’s programs.

In 2001, then-AAD President Ronald G. Wheeland, MD, FAAD, identified the development of future Academy leaders as a priority for his presidency. The Forum for Future Leadership was developed and held in January 2002, in Santa Monica, California. Attended by approximately 80 dermatologists, it was only the second meeting of its kind in Academy history; the first was held more than 20 years prior. The ADLP was launched in 2005, while the Advanced Leadership Forum was created in 2013.

“We developed pathways that overlapped with content so that sitting presidents and recent graduates could develop leadership skills,” said Mary Maloney, MD, FAAD, director of dermatologic surgery at UMass Memorial Health, who was involved in developing the Leadership Institute. “Then we realized that we had to do the same for mid-career people.” To date, nearly 1,200 members have participated in the programs. Applications open in July for the 2023 programs.

Leadership Forum

The Leadership Forum brings together aspiring leaders and experienced mentors for an interactive 2.5-day program. Among the topics covered are increasing self-awareness, communicating effectively, adapting to change, and coaching and mentoring.

The weekend is open to young physicians in both private practice and at academic institutions. However, individuals must apply to attend. Applications are reviewed by the Leadership Forum Work Group. Each year, 35 new participants are selected to attend.

“The first Leadership Forum I attended was revelatory in every way,” said Kelly M. Cordoro, MD, FAAD, professor of dermatology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. The sessions on communication, public speaking, negotiation, and time management were particularly memorable. Her favorite session focused on effective communications. Dr. Cordoro describes the presenter, Marsheila DeVan, as a uniquely talented skills coach who transformed her approach to verbal and non-verbal communication. Take-aways that Dr. Cordoro routinely uses more than 15 years after she first heard them are, “being self-aware, and in particular, mindful of what you are communicating with your spoken words and body language, and how verbal pauses (so, uh, and sort of) can detract from your messaging.” The Gallup Strength Assessment® has recently been introduced at the Leadership Forum while the DiSC® personality profile is presented at the Advanced Leadership Forum. “Understanding your predominant way of communicating and how that approach may impact those around you is a fundamental leadership skill,” she said. “In turn, learning to recognize the preferences of your colleagues is similarly helpful.” Darryl Harris’s high energy and comedic genius make his sessions on negotiation and recognizing office dynamics both entertaining and informative. “I was surprised by the degree to which the Leadership Forum inspired my own deep self-reflection,” Dr. Cordoro said. “The skills and principles translate beyond professional relationships and into your daily life.”

“Understanding your predominant way of communicating and how that approach may impact those around you is a fundamental leadership skill.”

Jerry D. Brewer, MD, MS, FAAD, FACMS, a professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, attended his first Leadership Forum in 2010. It was one year after he finished a fellowship and wasn’t sure whether he wanted to pursue research or grant writing. Dr. Brewer also vividly remembers the presentations given by DeVan and Harris. “I had attended presentation skills workshops before, and not to take away from these prior sessions, and not to take anything away from my institutional programs, but I couldn’t believe all that I was learning from these two presenters!” he said.

Dr. Maloney agrees. She has attended numerous lectures given by “experts who provide a formula for success,” which tend to feel superficial. “At the Leadership Forum, the sessions are more personal, engaging, and participatory,” she said. “Many people are speaking from their own experiences and sharing what they’ve learned.” One speaker, Amy MacDonald, PsyD, gives a talk titled, Is it them or me? “I must have listened to that talk five times, and every time I’ve taken something new away with me,” Dr. Maloney said.

John Zampella, MD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology at Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at New York University in New York City, attended the 2021 Leadership Forum in November, which was postponed from April 2020 due to COVID-19. The sessions on communication and negotiation skills stand out for him, but not more than the people he met. Dr. Zampella met chairs from different departments at institutions across the country, past AAD presidents, and even other young faculty members, with many of whom he keeps in touch. During a session on improving presentation skills, he was asked — or rather told — to give a two-minute presentation without using verbal pauses and was then critiqued on his performance. “It was a little startling to be put on the spot, but at the same time it was a great opportunity to learn how to act under pressure,” Dr. Zampella said. The negotiation tools he learned have enabled him to be more direct with his patients and department chair as well as individuals in his personal life. Dr. Zampella plans to apply for the ADLP next year and is considering applying for the Advanced Leadership Forum. “The programs build on each other,” he said. “I had such a great time and learned so much at the Leadership Forum, I can’t wait to see what’s next!”

Participants turned leaders

AAD members who attend the Leadership Institute programs are often so inspired that they take on leadership roles. Dr. Zampella recently joined the Leadership Forum Work Group and is excited to help shape the next iteration of leadership training.

The Leadership Forum tapped into Dr. Cordoro’s innate curiosity and passion for learning, prompting her to seek committee work and the opportunity to chair the Leadership Forum. She now serves as chair of the Leadership Development Steering Committee. “I have the privilege of working with an energetic, passionate, deeply committed group of people who want to continue to expand the horizons of the Leadership Institute’s work,” she said.

Dr. Sokumbi is chair of the Diversity Initiatives Work Group, which launched a new program at the 2022 Leadership Forum for underrepresented in medicine (URM) dermatologists. What kicked off as a half-day event will mimic the ADLP with a year-long mentorship and touch points throughout the year with mentors, the cohort, and AAD leaders. The program offers URM dermatologists networking opportunities and a toolbox of resources to help forge a successful career. Ultimately, it will create a pipeline of URM dermatology leaders, which, in turn, will help create diversity within the specialty at all levels, Dr. Sokumbi said. “Seeing someone who looks like you in a leadership position can help you aspire to be in that position,” she added.

Dr. Brewer has served as the Advanced Leadership Program chair, and recently completed his term on the AAD Leadership Steering Committee. He serves as an ADLP presenter and mentor. “I’ve heard that there are three phases to one’s career,” Dr. Brewer said. The first focuses on what one can do, the second focuses on what one knows, and the third focuses on who one can mentor and teach. “It is extremely satisfying to pass on your knowledge and skills and feel like you’ve been helpful to others in their personal and career development,” he said.

Dr. Maloney, who has served in more leadership roles at the Academy than one can count, also routinely lectures at the different leadership programs. Among her favorites are a session on time management and 10 Things I Wish I Knew Then. Her lecture on how to run a meeting has gone through numerous iterations from an in-person, to conference call, to a hybrid and Zoom meeting. “Get involved,” she said.” You’ll never stop learning.”

Academic Dermatology Leadership Program

The ADLP is an intensive program designed to provide physicians at academic institutions the necessary resources to meet the unique challenges of a career in academia. They include navigating the politics of a large university system, managing residents and/or staff, balancing work and home life, and finding time to write or conduct research, Webb said.

In addition to attending informative sessions at the Annual Meeting and Innovation Academy, and participating in the Leadership Forum, the ADLP offers a mentorship opportunity, she explained. Like the Leadership Forum, individuals must apply to attend the ADLP. Each year, 18 new participants are selected to attend. Participants choose a mentor from the AAD database and meet with them on a regular basis for an entire year. During the monthly peer-to-peer calls, the ADLP cohorts share challenging situations and discuss solutions.

Two years after attending the Leadership Forum, Dr. Brewer attended the ADLP. He remembers the sessions about communication skills and self-development. “I was learning so much that I couldn’t write fast enough,” he said. “Having a mentor is crucial, especially early in your career, because you don’t know what you don’t know,” Dr. Brewer added. As a member of the Leadership Program Work Group, he has had the privilege of attending the ADLP multiple times. “Going back over the years has really helped solidify the lessons and I still learn something new, even in sessions I’ve attended a number of times already,” Dr. Brewer said.

Yemi Sokumbi, MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Florida, attended the ADLP in 2018. “It was in the first few years of my career when I was still a little lost in terms of direction,” Dr. Sokumbi said. Although she was in an academic position, Dr. Sokumbi felt like she could benefit from some guidance to advance her career. But it wasn’t just about having a mentor; it was having the cohort of people with similar struggles and issues going on the same journey, Dr. Sokumbi said. “You develop great friendships with people who can help you navigate dermatology and the AAD,” she said, adding, “as for my mentor, I gained a lifelong friend.”

Dr. Sokumbi described the ADLP as “transformational.” She was surprised how welcoming people were and how quickly she bonded with her cohorts, making her truly feel a part of the Academy. “Within a year of completing the program, I accomplished all the things I set out to do,” Dr. Sokumbi added. They included directing an AAD session, joining Academy committees, obtaining an academic promotion, changing jobs, and taking on leadership roles at her new institution. She credits the ADLP with providing her the tools and confidence to accomplish her goals.

Dr. Maloney believes that she gains as much as, if not more than, the mentees by serving as a mentor. “I’ve developed such good relationships with some of the people who I’ve mentored that I call them with my problems,” Dr. Maloney said. While many people choose a mentor in their same field, some of the most fun mentorships were with people outside of her subspecialty because she learned so much.

Core Leadership Institute programs

The Leadership Forum is an interactive weekend designed for early-career physicians. It includes educational sessions and skill-building experiences for dermatologists interested in taking the next step in their careers or increasing their leadership presence in professional and/or community organizations.

The Academic Dermatology Leadership Program focuses on providing management and leadership training for early-career physicians focused on an academic career. The year-long program includes participation in the Leadership Forum, two additional in-person training programs, and a year-long mentorship with a senior dermatology leader.

The Advanced Leadership Forum, hosted in conjunction with the Leadership Forum, is designed for mid-career dermatologists. The weekend-long program aims to strengthen leadership knowledge and skills required to lead and influence in more complex organizations and environments.

Learn more about these programs.

Advanced Leadership Forum

The Advanced Leadership Forum is a highly interactive weekend designed for mid-career level dermatologists (i.e., at least 10 years out of residency) that provides an opportunity to advance leadership and communication skills while networking with colleagues. Sessions explore communication styles, coaching and mentoring staff, conflict resolution, and work/life balance, Webb said. Academy leaders present on how to advocate for dermatology on Capitol Hill and locally, as well as determining one’s leadership style.

The group work is the highlight of this forum, Dr. Cordoro said. It begins with sitting at a table with other dermatologists who strategize to solve a given problem. It requires humility, listening skills, good communication, and most importantly, teamwork, she said. “The rich learning takes place during the debrief, as you appraise your own behavior and the overall group dynamic,” Dr. Cordoro noted.

Dr. Maloney enjoys the personality inventories, which suggest that she is the enthusiastic one who motivates others and makes quick decisions. “I’ve learned that I need others on my team who will ensure that we have everything we need to accomplish our goal and slow me down enough to make sure that my decisions are sound,” Dr. Maloney said. “Every year, I go through all the components to see if I’ve changed or adapted my rougher edges,” she added.

“It’s important to recognize that everyone needs leadership training,” Dr. Cordoro stated. A leadership title doesn’t come with the skills required to serve in the role effectively. “From junior faculty to department chairs, practice staff dermatologists to CEOs of organizations, we all bring our humanity with its inherent flaws, learned biases, and often a skewed sense of how we are showing up,” she added. “If you attend with an open mind, immerse yourself in the material, and engage with the facilitators and your colleagues, you will have an incredibly rich weekend of learning and growth that will stay with you well beyond the forums.”