Health and Medicine

ACCLAIM for physicians, scientists, leaders

UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine program aims to provide leadership and career development opportunities to junior faculty members.

Twelve faculty members became the first group to complete the one-year Academic Career Leadership Academy in Medicine (ACCLAIM). ACCLAIM is a UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine program that provides leadership and career development opportunities to junior faculty members, with an emphasis on those underrepresented in medicine.

One of the central requirements of ACCLAIM is that participants propose an idea that they will work on individually to advance research, strengthen teaching and improve the health care system. For Paul Godley, executive associate dean for faculty affairs and faculty development, the timing of the kickoff of ACCLAIM couldn’t have been better. With the changing landscape of health care and medical education, Dr. Godley sees a system ripe for new ideas.

“I try to communicate to participants that this is a huge health care system, and it’s getting bigger,” says Godley. “There are lots of opportunities for leadership, so being ready when the moment arises is a big benefit for the system and the individual.”

The projects proposed by faculty members at the end of their time in ACCLAIM are designed to span boundaries and connect disciplines at the hospital and medical school, and they should also improve efficiency or effectiveness. The ideal end result for a project is the implementation of new ways of working that are in keeping with the missions of the school and health care system, while improving and streamlining the organization of care for patients.

Godley believes that the mix of cross-department communication and exchange of ideas has the potential to shape future leaders at UNC and make them positive agents of change.

Modeled after the Public Health Leadership Program at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, ACCLAIM is developing a new generation of leaders at the School of Medicine, while furthering the school’s research mission, strengthening teaching and improving care for patients.  ACCLAIM projects mentioned in this article include a geriatric emergency room, protecting burn victims from infections, and a centralized schedule for pediatric pain sedation.

“We want participants to see that they can have an impact on the medical school and the health care system – that we’ve invested in them and that this is a place that they can build a career,” he says.

The first ACCLAIM graduates proposed a wide range of improvement projects now in various developmental phases; several months after participants completed the program, some projects are near implementation, while others demonstrate promise and require further research and consideration. Regardless of the project stage, ACCLAIM participation helps individuals learn more about themselves and further develops leadership skills.

“We’re catching people early in their leadership experience and giving them additional leadership training,” says Godley. “Because many participants have already supervised people as division chiefs and section chiefs, we’re really enhancing what they possess and revealing to them what’s possible for the system and their careers.”

The idea for ACCLAIM was based, in part, on the model established by the Public Health Leadership Program (PHLP) in the Gillings School of Public Health. David Steffen, clinical assistant professor of PHLP, serves as facilitator of ACCLAIM. His experience has been invaluable in pushing participants to examine their personal and professional abilities and limitations, communicate more effectively with others, and broaden the way they think about the growing health care system. So far, Steffen has been impressed with the participants.

“They have incredible curiosity and ability to absorb and apply things in their own area,” he says. “And they have a thirst for knowing individuals on a personal basis. Leadership is a series of microinteractions – it’s about relationships, and everything else is derivative. Both the more introverted and extroverted persons have been willing to get to know other people and situations and connect with them for the goal of making their practice and their area for their patients safer and better.”

To produce change, it’s necessary but no longer sufficient to be technically competent. According to Steffen, a key to producing boundary-spanning projects is generating interdepartmental contact by getting participants out of their individual silos and helping them understand the increasingly complicated integrative health care system.

“In today’s health care environment, logic and algorithms can’t be relied upon to solve all problems,” says Steffen. “Interactions with different kinds of people matter, and with team-delivered and patient-centered care becoming increasingly important, developing the kinds of collaborative skills we do in ACCLAIM is necessary for the physician to make change.”

Nearly two years since the pilot program launched, Steffen has witnessed participants evolve as they’ve developed new awareness of themselves as physicians, scientists, and leaders.

“Before they start the program, individuals have a more limited conception of who they can be and how well they can lead the change they can affect,” he says. “ACCLAIM takes them from having a purely clinical, scientific, or technical viewpoint and expertise to a broad, interpersonal and systems-building perspective, one of synergistic connections among people working for patient health in the medical school, hospital and health care system.”

Read about three innovative projects that have resulted from ACCLAIM.