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Ontario Medical Review
Jan. 3, 2023

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.

OMA leadership training alumni say skills learned put to use every day

Former participants of the Physician Leadership Program reflect on learning to lead, influence and advocate for change

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Dr. Lisa Habermehl 
Rural family medicine
Primary Care Lead with Ontario Health North West
Red Lake

I lean on knowledge acquired during the OMA Physician Leadership Program on a regular basis. It was an experience that encouraged me to appreciate the spectrum of individual personalities that can be present in any meeting room and to seek to understand the nuanced relationships that can be fostered there.

It was an opportunity to realize the unique perspective and immense value that physician voices can bring to teams and systems. These voices stand to resonate more soundly when they come from those who have some fundamental knowledge in areas such as negotiation, collaboration and budget – all items included in the curriculum.

Like many doctors in northern Ontario, my early forays into leadership occurred mostly because I put up my hand to help, not necessarily because I possessed a specific skill set.

The physician leadership program was a place to learn relevant theory and practical constructs that can be applied across settings, and I am confident the program has significantly enhanced my natural learning curve. 

Since my time with the program, I have been involved in several leadership roles and the things I learned in the program continue to be invaluable assets. I would encourage any Ontario medical colleague interested in pursuing leadership and health-system change positions to consider enrolment in this physician-oriented program.

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Dr. Sarah Newbery
Associate Dean, Physician Workforce Strategy
Northern Ontario School of Medicine University
Past-President, Ontario College of Family Physicians

The OMA Physician Leadership Program, which I took when Brenda Zimmerman was its lead, introduced me to the language of complexity, and the importance of understanding complexity and the leadership thinking necessary to navigate it. That thinking has been critical to me as we have moved into increasingly complex times in health care in these past few years.

The opportunity to apply leadership lessons through action learning in a supportive coaching environment has opened the door to building in a coaching approach to other leadership initiatives and I am thankful for the way the program shaped that thinking for me. The skills and tactics – from communication skills to negotiation skills to co-design thinking – have increased my effectiveness in roles that I have undertaken since I completed the program.

I have benefited immensely from a network of colleagues with whom I would not otherwise have made connections because of the nature of rural and northern (and relatively isolated) practice. The informal learning that has continued as an alumni group of colleagues and friends has been really meaningful in facilitating my ongoing growth as a leader.

I struggle to imagine a program more effective and efficient for physician leaders.

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Dr. Paul Preston
Family practice
Vice-President, Clinical Programs North East and North West regions, Ontario Health
North Bay

Completing the OMA Physician Leadership Program was the single most impactful experience I have had as a physician leader. It gave me insight into the common patterns of issues I had been facing in my clinical leadership roles over the years. In a remarkably effective and concise fashion, it exposed me to the strategies, tactics and skill sets required to deal with the issues facing physician leaders. If there was one thing I would change, it would simply be taking the course sooner. My leadership journey pivoted upwards quickly upon completing it.

I can’t emphasize enough how critical physician leadership is to a high-quality health-care system, and that to be effective, physicians must learn a distinct body of knowledge and set of skills that we just aren’t taught in our clinical training. Armed with these abilities, the energy of frustration and complaining about an inefficient, ineffective system is re-channeled into being a champion of change to make a difference, for the people it cares for, and the people who work in it every day. And personally, it simply feels much better. 

I encourage each and every colleague finding themselves in any role of leadership, big or small, to take such training. It is quite enjoyable.

You’ll find upon reflection at the end of your career, this leadership experience will be amongst the most meaningful and fulfilling.  

I know of no better concise, yet comprehensive, course than the OMA Physician Leadership Program.