Michelle Dorsey, MD, Chief of Radiology at the Phoenix VA Health System, is now the first Department of Veterans Affairs physician to earn a White House Leadership Fellowship in the history of the prestigious leadership development program.
In October, Dorsey will relocate to Washington, DC, for 12 months to work in the White House Office of Management and Budget to provide programmatic leadership for the federal government’s Customer Experience Cross-Agency Priority Goal.
Customer service improvements made during the pursuit of this objective have the potential to impact millions of Americans in such areas as Medicare and Veterans Health Care as well as airport security screening, emergency and disaster relief, federal student aid, national parks, and passport services.
The assignment’s customer service emphasis reflects Dorsey’s management priorities at the Phoenix VA. As an outspoken advocate for women veterans’ care, including work as its past director of breast imaging, Dorsey expanded the staff, enlarged the clinic’s size, improved the quality of its breast imaging equipment, and developed a comprehensive breast imaging and intervention service. Due to the exceptional Breast Imaging team in Phoenix, they have been named the VA’s only American College of Radiology-designated Breast Imaging Center of Excellence.
Her experience since August 2015 as the youngest physician and first woman appointed Chief of Radiology at the Phoenix VA has been equally distinguished. The clinical scope and capacity of the department grew substantially under her leadership. Her staff performed a record 150,000 exams in 2017 while maintaining a greater than 95 percent completion rate within 30 days. Measured rates of employee and patient satisfaction both rose significantly.
Dorsey’s interest in the White House Leadership Fellowship was stirred by recent first-hand experiences with veteran homelessness, as a volunteer for Maricopa County (AZ) Stand Down, an intensive three-day program that helps at-risk military veterans address their health, legal, social, housing and employment issues. The event convinced her of the need for a multidimensional response to veterans’ homelessness.
“This fellowship will prepare me to develop transformative, collaborative programs that can make genuine difference in the lives of veterans. In particular, I anticipate that my work in ‘customer experience’ will translate into actionable initiatives here in Phoenix to enhance veterans’ satisfaction with the delivery of care,” she said in a written response to questions.
The fellowship will also present Dorsey with the personal challenge of helping to solve complex and interdependent problems, especially when her involvement can lead to improved government service delivery.
“We face many mission-critical challenges across the federal government,” she said. “By identifying new ways of doing business and embracing innovation, I believe we can improve our organizational performance.”
Dorsey believes radiologists are especially well-suited for such tasks because of their approach to problem-solving. She notes radiology is an analytical field where radiologists detect and analyze abnormalities, develop a working differential diagnosis, and consult with patients, referring physicians and other stakeholders. “Cross-agency initiatives can and should be approached in a similar fashion,” she said.
Such skills can lead radiologists to make meaningful contributions — not just in high-level positions, like the one afforded by a White House Leadership Fellowship — but also in their practices and hospitals, through community volunteerism or in public service.
“Ultimately everyone has their own path, and we must all find ways to advance the practice of medicine and improve the overall human condition,” Dorsey said. “As physicians, that is truly our highest calling.”