Sailing Towards Leadership in Medical Education

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I already know a lot about you.

You are a lover of lungs, passionate about medical education, and inspired to grow in your leadership skills. You are my kind of person! Were we to meet at the Tea and Tattle, hospital lounge, dog-park, or a rapid response I am certain to be bemused.

I imagine with great aplomb you would steep your tea, call out medications, and wrap it all up with a teachable moment. Your students, residents, and fellow citizens are most certainly in awe of you and shower you with esteem. Perhaps one fell in love with the lungs because of you. Another is naming their dog after you. Like gusts of wind that point a weathervane back in the direction the wind came from these forces are pointing your career back to where you came from…medical education.


Did I get you right?

Now what? How do you take this wind in your sails and point your ship back to a career in medical education?


First Step: Lean on the rudder. Warning: This takes work.

It means you need to push back against things that do not align with your career ambitions so as not to overcommit and underdeliver. Set your course to a specific goal or lighthouse to stay focused and directed so as not to wander off course. My good friend and former APCCMPD leader Dr. Gabe Bosslet (@gbosslet) developed an algorithm for this (version 7.0) reprinted with his permission below.


Second Step: Find your people.

Now that you have plotted your course and unfurled your sails you should realize…you can’t go it alone. Connect with others through local and national societies to find like-minded educators and leaders in medical education. They need not all be lovers of the lungs. Lovers of the kidneys and other less glamorous organs work just fine. Ideally find people who can be one of your “Cs”:

  • Collaborators = Colleagues in other disciplines and programs
  • Coaches = Mentors
  • Champions = Chiefs, Deans, CMOs, Societies, Organizations

Collaborators are people who share common scholarly research interests and clinical pursuits. Fish for them at national meetings, poster sessions, and workshops. Coaches are different than champions. Coaches are mentors who have gone where you are going. They point out the best path of travel, check in on your progress, and re-orient you as needed. Champions (supporters) fund the trip. They believe in your mission and can help align your vision with the goals of the program or system. During your journey towards leadership in medical education you will need to learn from and work with them all…better get to meeting them! A visit to the Tea and Tattle, dog-park, or hospital lounge works just fine for this.


Third Step: Now that you’re clearly directed, adequately equipped, and supremely inspired it is time to sail!

Sailing to a career in medical education leadership isn’t always smooth. There will be setbacks, detours, and “rogue waves”. Keep your eyes above the waves and remember your destination may change slightly as you go…embrace it! There are many destinations for educators: GME, UME, Hospital Leadership, Society Leadership, Government, Research, and Industry. Varied as they are you will detect a common theme among those who travel there…they are passionate and inspired. Because you clicked into this blog you already have those!

As I reflect on my career which has encompassed many of these destinations it is abundantly clear that I would have reached none of them if it weren’t for collaborators, coaches, and champions. I am grateful for them all lighting my path and putting wind in my sails…I hope this blog has done that for you as well. See you at the dog-park…rsvp at [email protected]

Graham Carlos, MD is a Professor of Clinical Medicine at Indiana University where he works in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. He has served as the Chair of the ATS Section on Medical Education, an Assistant Dean for Medical Education, and a Clerkship Director. He has been awarded the “Golden Apple” as top teaching professor form the School of Medicine for the past 7 years in a row. He is a dog lover and owns two bullmastiffs which he walks with his wife (Jenny) and 3 daughters. He is pictured with “Gus” – the therapy dog at Eskenazi Health where he sees patients with Dr. Carlos.