Chairs of major clinical departments traditionally have faced complex responsibilities because of their multiple tasks – patient care, teaching, research, and administration.
As academic health centers experience unprecedented disruption and change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, chairs are being asked to become more extensively involved in institutional decision making with regard to programs, staffing, operating and capital budgets, and other issues. These responsibilities are in addition to their traditional concerns within their own departments. At the same time, chairs have to consider to a greater degree the relationship between institutional priorities, departmental decisions, and collaboration with other services. These new tasks call for new leadership and managerial skills.
The Program for Chairs of Clinical Services (PCCS) brings together chairs of major clinical departments in teaching hospitals and health systems and an experienced interdisciplinary faculty for two weeks of intensive and systematic study of some of the critical leadership and management issues facing chairs, their departments, and teaching hospitals.
The curriculum of the program is organized around the following interrelated courses taught by a faculty experienced in executive education for physicians and other key decision-makers in the health system:
- Competitive Strategy
- Health Policy
- Financial Analysis and Control
- Innovative Problem Solving
- Operations Management
- Organizational Issues
- Leadership Challenges
A carefully integrated curriculum permits participants to examine fundamental managerial issues from the perspective of several disciplines. A new program initiative or downsizing proposal, for example, may raise managerial problems concerning departmental and institutional strategy; the application and utility of systems analysis and quantitative analytical methods; basic economic trends and legal constraints; financial analysis and control; and organizational behavior, design, and development.
The overriding purpose for learning concepts, techniques, and skills in any of the management disciplines in this program is to understand their managerial use and limitations. For example, the course in financial analysis and control does not aim to develop expert accountants or to provide accounting skills, per se. The purpose in learning to analyze the cost and financial implications of program decisions, for instance, is: (a) to better understand the fundamental methodological issues involved, the driving factors behind any particular analysis, the limits of such analysis, and the need to blend this with clinical, strategic, and other non-financial judgements; and (b) to improve the ability of a participant both to manage staff and to interact more effectively with the fiscal affairs personnel in their hospital, health system, or medical school.
The principal method of instruction in the program is the case method, a technique pioneered and refined at Harvard Business School. Most of the cases present actual problem situations familiar to chairs of clinical departments. Special case materials based on field studies of specific issues faced by service chairs have been and continue to be prepared by the faculty.
The case method confronts the participant with an actual management problem, halted at a point where decisions must be made, and forces the participant to choose a course of action. Participants go through a three-step study process. First, participants study each case independently. Participants then meet in small discussion groups to test their individual analyses against those of their peers. Finally, the entire class discusses the case, with the professor as catalyst and guide. The professor points out considerations the class has overlooked; elicits from participants the lessons of experience; pursues each line of investigation to its conclusion; and finally, summarizes the discussion and draws out the major lessons it has taught.
Assigned readings and guest lecturers supplement and augment the use of cases. In addition, an important part of the learning process occurs during the informal exchange of insights and experience among participants and faculty.
Classes and discussion groups are scheduled six days a week. Preparation for classes averages six hours a day. Registration is scheduled for 3:00 – 4:00 pm on the opening Sunday of the program. The following Sunday is free except for cases to be prepared for Monday’s classes. The program concludes on the second Friday at 2:00 pm. Participants are required to free themselves of professional and family responsibilities for the period of the program so that full attention can be devoted to the educational experience.