UW medical students embrace leadership course taught by Gonzaga



A leadership course offered to University of Washington medical students through the UW School of Medicine-Gonzaga University Health partnership has been well received, with future doctors citing how it will influence their careers.

The Leadership Pathway, a program developed by Gonzaga’s School of Leadership Studies, aims to lay the foundation for aspiring physicians to be capable and effective leaders within their organizations and communities.

“Many people and organizations in medical education have highlighted the need for leadership training for future doctors, but few places are doing it,” said Darryl Potyk, head of medical education for the UWSOM partnership. -GU Health.

“Our partnership with Gonzaga has provided us with a great opportunity to tap into the expertise of the School of Leadership Studies.

“We came together in such a positive way, acknowledging the strengths that each of us possesses and brings to the table. It was a wonderful opportunity and through the spirit of collaboration and for the greater good, this program is at the fore. height of its potential.”

Product of a partnership

The 2016 collaboration between UW and GU was a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to advance the health of communities in Eastern Washington through education and research in health sciences related to medicine .

In various contexts, health professionals are assumed to be leaders.

“Whether or not they have formal leadership training, physicians are often viewed as leaders and/or find themselves in leadership roles having to learn by trial and error,” Potyk said.

Gonzaga’s Leadership Pathway program takes a broad approach to the subject.

“Our approach to leadership centers around the notion of inclusiveness,” said lead teacher Jen Towers, assistant dean of Gonzaga’s School of Nursing and Human Physiology. “Leadership is for everyone, every day. We also strive to instill the importance of follow through and recognize that it takes a skilled and diverse team to be successful.”

One step after another

The program begins with leadership theory and self-awareness, which enables students to understand their personal leadership style. Along with the lessons, several skill and trait assessments are included, followed by analysis with experts.

The Pathway then moves on to teamwork and how to lead with others in health care settings. It culminates with students applying best practices for leading in other environments. Mentors and guest speakers, mostly from healthcare organizations, help students along the way.

“Healthcare is a team sport where everyone has an essential role to play in contributing to the best possible care and patient experience,” Potyk said. “Teamwork in health care no longer works like the golf team, but now works like the volleyball team.”

Recent students noted the stages of the Pathway.

UW Medical Student Grayson Baden

“I appreciated that self-awareness and understanding were the first foundations of this program, because that’s what really defines a leader,” said Grayson Baden, a UW class of 2023 medical student. “Leadership is not a singular trait, but a fluid ability that is highly dependent on its practitioner.

“There’s no one way to be a leader, just like there’s no one way to be a doctor, and the focus on accepting that and growing at from this knowledge helped me to imagine what I hope to bring to my future practice.”

Dana Arenz, medical student at UW

Dana Arenz, a classmate from Baden, also appreciated the foundation work.

“I’ve learned that I personally have strengths in analysis, learning, and focus, which explains how, as a leader, I tend to observe systems so I can identify problems, and then methodically create multiple plans to ameliorate those issues,” Arenz said.

The reflections of the medical students undoubtedly encourage Towers.

“We hope to have students develop the skills to lead well and follow well,” she said. “We want them to understand the importance of concepts that are likely to affect their own practice, such as identity, empathy, emotional intelligence and communication.”

New paths may follow

Baden said his trajectory as a doctor may change due to the emphasis on self-awareness.

“Before choosing medicine, I wanted to be a science teacher,” she said. “I have always enjoyed education and mentorship, and a strengths assessment I completed as part of the Pathway noted an ability to recognize and nurture growth and learning in others.

“I know that I would like to teach in some capacity after my training, whether for medical students, other health professionals or members of the community, and I have gained confidence in my ability to do it formally and in my daily life.”

Arenz says the Pathway has honed her skills for the direction she would like to go.

“Over the past four years, it has become increasingly clear that people without medical training in government power are ill-prepared to make public health decisions,” she said. “I have always wanted to work in healthcare administration, but recently I have acquired a desire to serve in the public sector.

“From seminars with Spokane Regional Health District staff to workshops on navigating difficult conversations, the leadership pathway prepares me well for a career as a physician leader in a complex and discordant environment.”

Students offer endorsement

Baden and Arenz recommend the program.

“It’s worth the time, and you get out of it what you put into it,” Baden said. “If you take the time to reflect, you can identify how your strengths and points of growth color all of your interactions, both as a leader and in the rest of your life.

“Although many medical students have leadership experience, there was previously little formal leadership training in medical school. involvement of the Spokane medical community have been greatly appreciated.”

Arenz knows she will be seen as a leader.

“Just being a doctor is an important role in leadership,” she said. “You have tremendous influence on patients with varying needs and backgrounds. Therefore, leadership training is essential to being a well-rounded, impactful, and compassionate physician.”

The Leadership Pathway helped lay the groundwork for Gonzaga’s new Certificate in Healthcare Leadership, a partnership recently endorsed by GU’s School of Nursing and Human Physiology, School of Leadership Studies, and UW School of Medicine. Its first class, fully enrolled and including both emerging and experienced healthcare professionals, begins next January.

A bright future

Potyk praised the Pathway and the soon-to-be-launched certificate program.

“The Leadership Pathway has been very successful,” he said. “It echoes themes of inclusivity by recognizing that you don’t have to be a doctor to be a leader in healthcare. It recognizes the key roles played by all team members .

“With that in mind, this certificate program will include many different types of healthcare professionals, including nurses and physical therapists, anyone with a role in the healthcare team.”

He singled out Rachelle Strawther of GU, who helped create the Pathway program and served as the main host from September 2019 to June.

“She was really instrumental in both the Pathway and the certificate program,” Potyk said.

Strawther is now director of GU’s Center for Lifelong Learning.

To develop and improve high-level medical education in Spokane and Eastern Washington.

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