Richard Duszak Jr., MD, FACR, FRBMA, American College of Radiology® (ACR®) Radiology Leadership Institute® (RLI) Faculty, contributed this piece.

Leadership essentials are the fundamental principles and skills necessary for effective leadership. Strong leadership is essential for achieving goals, inspiring others and driving positive change. In this blog, Dr. Duszak answers questions about his leadership journey and gives his advice on how to become a strong leader in the radiology field.

Tell us more about your personal leadership journey and why you became interested in the leadership space.

Dr. Duszak: As far back as I can recall, I've always been interested in leaving organizations better than I found them and have thus consistently aspired to institutional service (e.g., medical school student body president, former private practice group president). In a complicated and eternally changing world, organizations need to change and ideally do so proactively rather than reactively. Enabling that change, however, isn't easy as it requires strategic and tactical vision, statesmanship, consensus building and perseverance — all skills that are typically neglected in traditional physician education. My personal journey of leadership growth led me to become passionate about helping others in their journeys and motivating and preparing the next generation of healthcare leaders.

What are some of the greatest lessons and biggest challenges you’ve learned throughout your leadership journey? How did you overcome adversity?

Dr. Duszak: The rate-limiting step in enabling real change is getting the buy-in of others. Whether at the homeowner’s association, governmental, professional society or healthcare institutional level, no one can change an organization on their own. As a rule, everyone wants to change for the better. They just don't like change being imposed upon them. When I look back at initiatives that either failed or took far longer than they could have, the rate-limiting step was most frequently insufficient communication, inadequate consensus building or a combination of the two. As a leader, you can never communicate enough. Creating a sense of urgency, building guiding coalitions, communicating plans and seeking quick wins are the keys to transformational change.

Residency is a very busy time. Being a leader as a resident seems like it would be a lot of work on top of an already busy clinical schedule. Why is it so important to engage in leadership experiences early on?

Dr. Duszak: The practice of radiology is far more complex and complicated than it was when I finished my residency 30 years ago, with far less physician autonomy than in the past. If we truly want to be advocates for our profession and our patients, physicians must have a seat at the table, lest they wind up on the menu. If you wait until you need those skills, it's often too late to enact real change.

What is your involvement with the RLI Leadership Essentials course? What about the structure of Leadership Essentials makes the program so effective for residents?

Dr. Duszak:
I had the opportunity to start the RLI Leadership Essentials course several years ago along with Matt Hawkins, MD, and I’m delighted to see how it continues to grow under its current leadership. Residents are at an incredibly busy stage of their life, studying, taking calls, often starting families and planning their futures. The program focuses on high-impact high-level issues, intended to help trainees hit the ground running and inspire their lifelong learning. Unlike many leadership programs which require travel and dedicated classroom training, the program was designed with residents in mind with on-demand videos and then flipped classroom question-and-answer sessions with faculty and experienced moderators. The program has proven highly successful, and I'm delighted to see interest growing. We’re planning to launch our next session Sept. 1 and look forward to welcoming this year’s radiology resident and fellow attendees.

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