The leadership qualities missing from today's orthopedic leaders


Six orthopedic surgeons connected with Becker's to discuss the leadership qualities that are hard to come by in orthopedic leaders today.

Ask Orthopedic Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting orthopedic care. We invite all orthopedic surgeon and specialist responses.

Next question: What does the shift to outpatient care mean for the orthopedic industry?

Please send responses to Riz Hatton at by 5 p.m. CDT Thursday, March 16.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Nicholas Grosso, MD. President of MedVanta: Leaders today lack foresight. They are getting caught up in immediate near-term issues and are not looking to the future. Consolidations are happening all over the country — which is difficult even for the best leaders. These consolidations are understandably taking up much of their time, but it is still necessary to take the time to see where the market is going. Leaders need to make necessary changes now to succeed later. 

Ehsan Jazini, MD. Spine Surgeon at the Virginia Spine Institute (Reston): Trust, transparency and communication are all must-haves for any healthy relationship. The same goes for a doctor-patient relationship. As orthopedic leaders, we must balance the importance of being highly technical medical leaders and compassionate medical providers for our patients.

Philip Louie, MD. Spine Surgeon at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Seattle): The ability and time to learn to be a great leader. Where are we supposed to learn to become leaders? Our medical and surgical training is focused on clinical milestones, academic achievements, and core competencies that have been around for ages. We graduate, then find ourselves leading a small team right away. We are finally starting to see some residency programs establish early curriculum focused on leadership training and education. The combination of training in interpersonal skills (coordinating teams, coaching, giving feedback, cross-specialty communication and emotional intelligence) and healthcare systems (business of healthcare systems, insurance, patient care costs, etc.) are crucial.

As orthopedic leaders gain seats at the bigger tables, how do they best receive the necessary training for these roles? Some have sought MBA degrees, and thus may position themselves for a leadership position. But many in healthcare have realized that an MBA is not a reliable indicator of one's ability to lead. So, it would seem to me that the quality of remaining teachable and seeking out coaching, mentorship, training, etc., to become more effective leaders is the most difficult quality — especially when we as orthopedic surgeons have so much pressure to care for a growing list of patients.

Hooman Melamed, MD. The Spine Pro (Beverly Hills, Calif.): Being able to put the conflict of interest aside and be 100 percent a patient advocate. Sometimes the pressure from around may not allow the leaders to make the correct decisions that are in the best interest of the patient. Money should never ever be the focus of making and advocating decisions that are the best for the patient.

Anthony Melillo, MD. Founder of Bay Oaks Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine (Houston): Overall, orthopedic surgeons are bright, innovative and more conservative leaders. I think this stems from the mechanical and technical aspects of the surgical procedures. However, there are some of my fellow surgeons that have a higher level of positive attributes than this cohort of already high achievers. They have a vision of tomorrow that is more progressive than most of us. They think outside of the cohort; they lead differently. Some excel in politics, some in finance and others in research and development.  

This may not be unique to orthopods but in my world, I admire these unicorns that practice a time consuming and diverse field of medicine and still have the desire, energy and knowledge to succeed and lead the rest of us toward new pathways forward.

Paul Perry, MD. President of Tri-State Orthopaedic Surgeons (Evansville, Ind.): Leaders in orthopedic surgery are some of the strongest and most capable leaders in all of healthcare. These same leaders are also integral to the communities in which they live, serving in a multitude of leadership roles outside of healthcare as well.

The process of creating physicians, and orthopedic surgeons specifically, self-selects for many strong leadership traits including intelligence, resilience, dynamic problem-solving, empathy and integrity. The same academic crucible in which surgeons are created does a less impressive job at creating great collaborators. Creating effective and diverse teams and leading these teams of colleagues in problem-solving efforts does not often, in my opinion, come naturally for physician leaders. I have found this to be true of my own leadership style and I find it helpful to be self-aware of my limitations in this regard. For this reason, I intentionally seek out and include great collaborators in the leadership teams which I build. I have learned to be a better leader through my collaborating teammates and this approach has served me well for many years.

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