What makes a stellar orthopedic leader?


An A+ leader is essential for any healthcare organization. But what exactly does a stellar leader look like?

Three orthopedic surgeons connected with Becker's to answer, "What makes a stellar orthopedic leader?"

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: How do you think the popularity of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists such as Ozempic and Wegovy will affect the orthopedic industry?

Please send responses to Riz Hatton at rhatton@beckershealthcare.com by 5 p.m. CST Thursday, Dec. 7.

Note: These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

James Abbott, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon at Best Surgery & Therapies (Cincinnati): A stellar orthopedic leader is facile with many different leadership skills. They lead by example through continuous improvement in their surgical and clinical skill set, they seek knowledge to better not just themselves but their patients and partners. They are not afraid to be challenged by their peers, patients or support staff to look at things from a different perspective. They embrace changes at an appropriate pace and ensure the team understands the rationale for the change and why it will improve an outcome.

The stellar orthopedic leader does not blindly accept dogma. They keep the outcome of the patient at the center of the decision-making process and understand how to educate and empower the support staff to help achieve that goal. 

They are also good at fostering relationships with their patients, suppliers and administrators again with the goal of always providing the patient the best options for care.

Philip Louie, MD. Spine Surgeon at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Tacoma, Wash.): There are so many factors that make up a stellar orthopedic leader. And it is usually a combination of multiple traits that form the leader that we all look up to or emulate.

One factor that I've always appreciated in stellar orthopedic leaders is the ability to put their head down and work quietly toward goals, rather than always serving as an incessant loud voice. I think we all recognize and appreciate the quiet confidence rather than the loudness of insecurities that often prevail. As children, we are taught that actions speak louder than words. This principle rings even truer when leading healthcare groups. The orthopedic surgeons who continue to spend time in the front lines and work in the trenches have the greatest ability to understand the greatest areas of concern/need within their departments and organizations. Similarly, they are also afforded opportunities to observe and experience meaningful activities and personnel. Understanding some of the day-to-day activities, struggles and rewards are critical to driving forward the vision and mission of that department. Lastly, in a world where we are being asked to do more with less — those efforts drive camaraderie and purpose.

Brett Shore, MD. Orthopedic Surgeon at DISC Sports & Spine Center (Marina del Rey, Calif.): A stellar orthopedic leader should be able to combine clinical expertise, effective communication and compassionate leadership, while maintaining a commitment to patient care. While a deep understanding of orthopedic principles and techniques is critical, stellar leaders excel in conveying complex information to patterns and fostering open communication within their teams. This kind of leader should recognize the physical and emotional challenges patients face and should be dedicated to a patient-centric approach to care.

Furthermore, a stellar orthopedic leader is adaptable, maintaining a commitment to continuing education in order to incorporate significant advances into their practice with the goal of improving patient outcomes. Strong orthopedic leadership is characterized by decision-making that is resolute yet collaborative, taking into account the views and priorities of the team while maintaining commitment to ethical practices at all times. At its essence, stellar orthopedic leadership combines technical proficiency with interpersonal skills in order to create a healthcare environment that prioritizes ethical patient care in a safe, collaborative environment.

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