March 24, 2020

RO Corner: The Importance of Leadership

Meghan Macomber, MD, the radiation oncology representative to the ACR RFS, recently conducted an interview with Paul M. Harari, MD, FASTRO, the Jack Fowler professor and chairman of the department of human oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
  1. Can you tell us about your experience with national society leadership, and specifically becoming president of ASTRO?

    I have served as a volunteer for ASTRO for over 25 years. Step by step, I learned more about the field of radiation oncology, and about the people and programs that ASTRO works to develop, support, and expand. Working within a committee, and eventually chairing a committee, provides a wonderful apprenticeship for larger leadership roles. Cancer physicians are generally deeply committed to their patients. If this mission resonates for you, keep this close to your heart as you navigate the service and leadership ladder. Leadership, program-building, and change are not always easy, but can be highly rewarding if you maintain your balance with the cancer patient as your ultimate focus.

  2. What are some things one can do early in their career to get involved in leadership?

    Young physicians observe “good” and “not so good” role models in leadership all the time. Early in your career, it can be valuable to begin taking mental notes of the styles and traits you observe and wish to emulate in leaders across your institution. This will help you define the type of leader you wish to become. Offer to participate in a few institutional and national committees if you have the chance. It is important to balance the time commitment with your primary day job, but it is valuable to look beyond your immediate sphere to open new doors for growth, learning, and future leadership development.

  3. What are some of the key benefits you see of belonging to a national society, even if not involved at a leadership level?

    National society engagement provides a fabulous opportunity to network directly with colleagues around the country who may have much in common with you. How are they handling various challenges including workload, promotions, EMRs, work-life balance, etc.? Through your national society, you may identify new arenas of interest that have a significant impact on your career. You should exposure yourself early to gain an appreciation for the broad scope of your field to see what might attract your interest for the future.

  4. Many residents and early career radiation oncologists are concerned about the state of the field, and specifically the job market. How can getting involved in professional societies help tackle some of these important issues?

    When areas of “concern” emerge in your field, communication can be highly valuable. Connect with various stakeholders that you know and trust to help you place concerns into perspective. Has the concern occurred before? If so, what was the outcome? Are others perceiving the same issue? Is the concern isolated to your discipline or are similar patterns active in other fields? Radiation oncologists are among the most career-satisfied physicians because they are directly impacting the lives of cancer patients and families every day. The rewards are lifelong.