Defining Leadership in the GI Field: 2 Gastroenterologists Discuss Their Strategies

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Two gastroenterologists share their approaches to leadership in the GI field.

Ask a Gastroenterologist is a weekly series of questions posed to GI physicians around the country on business and clinical issues affecting the field of gastroenterology. We invite all gastroenterologists to submit responses. Next week's question: What are a few of the best ways to boost GI patient volume?

 Please submit responses to Carrie Pallardy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by Thursday, April 10, at 5 p.m. CST.

Patrick TakahashiPatrick Takahashi, MD. CMIO and Chief of Gastroenterology Section of St. Vincent Medical Center, Los Angeles: Leadership in the gastroenterology field involves understanding market forces, technology, changes in expectations to patient care and conforming to quality measures that will be coming down the pipeline. For instance, taking the lead in maintaining the highest quality for our hospital gastroenterology lab or outpatient surgical centers is paramount to best-practice care. As an example, maintaining preoperative and postoperative documentation so that it adheres to quality measures is expected on a national level and is of paramount importance. Insisting that physicians document proper follow-up protocols for polyps, withdrawal times during colonoscopy, quality of preparation, etc., will be important going forward for reimbursement, as well as ensuring that best practice of care is followed.  As a leader, one must impart the value of these quality measures to physicians, as well as the surrounding staff, to help change the culture going forward.
 
In this digital age of medical documentation and the internet, expectations will change with the advent of patient portals. Patients can become better educated on matters, especially if we are very clear in our documentation for them. It takes a certain amount of foresight and leadership to make the necessary changes so that one's practice can be tailored to a fashion which is both functional as well as satisfying.  

Pankaj Vashi, MD, Lead National Medical Director, National Clinical Director of Gastroenterology/Nutrition, Metabolic Support and Gastroenterology, Midwestern Regional Dr. VashiMedical Center, Zion, Ill.: My personal philosophy on how to approach leadership in the gastroenterology field is consistent with American College of Gastroenterology's mission to advance the field of clinical gastroenterology through education and research. By far, these are the two most important areas of focus. In addition to education and research, in order to lessen the gaps relating to treatment, protocol and patient care, there are other areas that can help move the bar. Collaboration amongst physicians both within and outside of the GI discipline is vital. We can learn a lot from stepping outside of our own clinics. The sharing of knowledge and patient cases is absolutely invaluable.
 
We as practitioners need to encourage new ideas and innovation. We must create an environment where everyone we work with feels empowered to foster and share ideas. The more we allow the mind to expand and explore possibilities, the greater the potential for incredible breakthroughs. We must challenge ourselves and those around us to look at things differently. Often thinking from the perspective of what the patient sees, experiences or believes opens new pathways for advancement.
 
We must also initiate and support quality measures. In an earlier Becker's ASC Review article I discussed benchmarking as a means to improve colonoscopy quality. Quality measures are vital to our ability to deliver the most current and reliable information and modes of care to all of the key audiences, including patients, accrediting organizations and licensing bodies. Without the continual review of what we are delivering and how we are delivering it, we can easily become complacent and fall behind in the care we are providing.
 
It is important to lead by example. The Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi said it best when he stated, "Be the change you want to see in the world." It is important to be consistent with how we interact with our patients and with our colleagues. Seek out audiences that are open to hearing what we have to share. Be both a teacher and student. The most accomplished individuals in any discipline are able to incorporate this into their personal and professional lives. Publish as much as you can. There is a thirst for knowledge and information in science; the more we contribute, the stronger we grow as a discipline. Allow others to see us in action, and ask to see them in action. Learning by example is very powerful.
 
And finally, great leaders always take the time to plan. When incorporating any of the above into how you approach leadership in gastroenterology, focus your thinking and create achievable short term and long term strategic goals.

More Articles on Gastroenterology:
5 Statistics on NIH Spending on Digestive Diseases & Cancers
Adenoma Detection Rate: Lowering Colorectal Cancer Risk
12 Gastroenterologist Moves & Honors

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