For Residents

Career Choices: Directorship/leadership

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Editor’s note: Career Choices features a psychiatry resident/fellow interviewing a psychiatrist about why he or she has chosen a specific career path. The goal is to inform trainees about the various psychiatric career options, and to give them a feel for the pros and cons of the various paths.

In this Career Choices, Cornel Stanciu, MD, talked with Thomas Penders, MS, MD. For most of his career, Dr. Penders has practiced in directorship roles. He currently serves as the leader of an addiction consultation service at the Walter B. Jones Center in Greenville, North Carolina, as well as working at the state level with federally qualified health centers to develop collaborative care models.

Dr. Stanciu: What led you to decide to pursue a director role?

Dr. Penders: Early in my career, I was offered opportunities to provide leadership for an organization in its efforts to assure quality and availability of appropriate medical and psychiatric care.

Dr. Stanciu: How has the director role evolved over the years?

Dr. Penders: Thirty years ago, when I got started, hospital administrations depended heavily on medical directors to provide advice on new service initiates. Medical directors were frequently provided with support by health care organizations when recommendations were made based on patient and community need as perceived by medical staff providers. There has been a dramatic shift in the relationship and role of medical directorship, particularly over the past decade. Budgetary constraints have influenced planning and operational decisions to the extent that these decisions are much more likely to be made based on financial analyses rather than on clinical needs identified by physicians. As a result, medical directors are encouraged to be mindful of the effect of their suggestions on the bottom line of the organization. This has resulted in a very significant shift away from programs that are needed but not funded, and toward programs that are revenue-positive or at least neutral.

Medical directors who do not conform in this way are unlikely to be part of the administration for very long in the present environment.

Continue to: What training qualifications are required or desirable to assume a medical leadership role (post residency fellowship, MBA, etc.)?

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