ACR Bulletin

Covering topics relevant to the practice of radiology

Leading From the Middle During COVID-19

ACR leaders share advice on optimizing the performance of the team and the organization during a time of crisis.

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During a crisis, we tend to focus on the problems we’re having but I think what we’re seeing is our radiology community really pulling together.

—Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR
March 30, 2020

In times of uncertainty, strong leaders are more important than ever before. During the Radiology Leadership Institute’s (RLI) recent installment of its “Maximize Your Influence and Impact” course, ACR BOC Chair Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, focused on the changes radiology middle managers can make within their health systems — and the ways in which they can optimize their contributions — during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “As radiologists, we have a very important role to play in this urgent health crisis,” noted McGinty. “How we’re optimizing our contributions and finding ways to make a difference may feel very different from the roles we normally play in the organization. We are finding ourselves in rooms that we weren’t in, doing tasks we didn’t do before, and gaining potential opportunities to influence that weren’t previously available to us.”

McGinty served as the guest faculty member during the March 24 webinar of the 12-week online course designed to help radiologists develop the business skills they need to run their practices with confidence. During the webinar, McGinty honed in on the importance of informal communication as a way of communicating with one’s team members during the pandemic — such as video and text messaging. “Trying to add some informality to the conversations with the team so they’re not all transactional in nature has been very important for me,” said McGinty.

During a lively discussion where participants shared their experiences, J. Jacob Kazam, MD, an MSK and ED radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, reflected that no matter how frequently senior leadership communicates information, hearing from a more familiar leadership figure is important  even if it’s the same news.

Geoffrey D. Rubin, MD, MBA, FACR, professor of radiology and bioengineering at Duke University and an RLI board member, who moderated the session, agreed. “Senior leadership do a good job of communicating daily during a crisis but there is something about getting information from the people you work with every day and trust,” he said. “People feel better if they can ask questions directly of someone they feel comfortable with.” 

Rubin noted that the pandemic, while posing challenges, is also presenting increased opportunities for radiologists to showcase their leadership skills. “During a time of crisis, when there’s so many new needs within a division or team, it’s a tremendous opportunity to establish one’s place as a leader,” he said. “It’s a chance to take the reins and let your team know that you understand their needs, that you have their backs, and that you’re really advocating for them.”

Participant Melissa Davis, MD, MBA, assistant professor of radiology and biomedical imaging at Yale University, described her work in getting acquainted with a brand new team during a challenging time. “Relationship-building is very important right now, although understandably challenging, as your team's needs and focus are changing frequently.”

McGinty added that during a time of crisis, social capital is a key investment that one needs to make as a middle manager. “Having hard conversations and getting people to buy into difficult decisions is largely based on how much capital you’ve invested in your team,” she said. “If you really want your team to perform in a way that is not only reflective of your performance but also contributes to the organization, then this is a really key aspect to focus on.”

Both Rubin and McGinty agreed that the pandemic is creating opportunities never before seen for healthcare professionals, including radiologists. “During a crisis, we tend to focus on the problems we’re having but I think what we’re seeing is our radiology community really pulling together,” said McGinty. “A crisis always creates an opportunity for leadership. Never let a crisis go to waste.”

For more questions about the "Maximize Your Influence and Impact" program, please contact Vickie Giannotti at


Author Nicole B. Racadag, MSJ, managing editor, ACR Bulletin, and Cary Coryell, publications specialist, ACR Press