The ACR Strategic Plan Vision Statement aims for ACR members to be “universally acknowledged as leaders in the delivery and advancement of quality healthcare.” This means ensuring radiologists are essential and valued providers of patient care and that they participate in population health management. To become universally recognized, however, requires going beyond the borders of one’s country, as well as fostering and collaborating with radiology organizations worldwide.
In pursuit of this goal, the Radiology Leadership Institute® (RLI) and the International Society of Radiology (ISR) partnered to create a leadership course, called “Being an Effective Leader: Core Principles for Success.” Frank J. Lexa, MD, MBA, FACR, chief medical officer of the RLI, says that a partnership with the ISR is critical to helping the College reach its international collaboration goals. “The ISR has a long history of doing great things in education and in the international community,” says Lexa. “The RLI and the ACR have a history of teaching leadership skills, so this was a great chance to combine our skills and do this together.”
A Beautiful Friendship
The pilot program for this project was a virtual course targeted at radiologists in Sub-Saharan Africa; the majority of participants were located in Zambia. Zambia faces substantial healthcare challenges, including an HIV crisis, high rates of pre-term birth, a high infant mortality rate, and increasing trauma and non-communicable diseases. Although the country’s doctors are dedicated to serving their patients, there are only 13 radiologists in the entire country (nine in the public sector and four in the private sector). Three public MRI machines exist in the country.1
Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR, education chair for the ISR and past president of the ACR, says it was easy to pitch the idea to both parties. “We’re well-resourced in terms of being able to develop programs like Image Gently®, the RLI, or the Practice Parameters and Technical Standards,” says McGinty. “And while we are careful stewards of the College’s resources, we also want to share these tools with other countries who are not as well-resourced. It speaks so much to the ACR membership as a community of excellence that we want to be generous with that excellence.”
Beyond resource-sharing, international partnerships such as the ACR-ISR help raise the profile of radiology, McGinty notes, particularly when you already have resources like the RLI. “Investing in imaging infrastructure poses a huge benefit to society,” she says. “Resource-constrained countries obviously have to choose carefully where they invest, so by supporting other radiologists in their journeys as leaders, we’re helping them speak to the value of imaging and creating a more influential voice for the specialty overall.”
Lexa agrees. “Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve realized how much smaller the world is,” he says. “Many of the problems we face as radiologists are not unique to the United States, and we were able to discuss big issues of leadership that transcend national boundaries and culture. You can’t get that perspective without stepping out of the reading room and participating in a much larger community.”
The course would not have been possible if Lexa and McGinty had not connected with Veronica Sichizya, MB, CHB, FC Rad Diag(SA), consultant radiologist at University Teaching Hospital-Adult in Lusaka, Zambia. University Teaching Hospital is the largest hospital and main referral health institution in Zambia. Sichizya, who is a leader in the community, convinced eight out of nine radiologists in Zambia, as well as several South African radiologists and trainees, to attend the course. She also organized a way for the attendees to receive continual professional development credits by the Health Professions Council of Zambia, the equivalent of CME.
Although McGinty and the other RLI faculty members, Harprit Bedi, MD, and Ryan K. Lee, MD, MBA, had developed and taught leadership courses before, both in-person and virtually, they wanted to take a different approach to this one. “We wanted to make sure we were very thoughtful of our programming to ensure we correctly addressed issues that they were facing and to understand the hierarchal structure in their community,” says Bedi. Sichizya organized a focus group of attendees so that faculty could understand the unique challenges each radiologist experienced, as well as an understanding of the basic medical system, infrastructure, and governance of the medical community in sub-Saharan Africa.
The course consisted of three virtual learning modules: “Leading Yourself,” “Leading Teams,” and “Leading Change.” After attendees viewed the pre-recorded modules, the RLI convened a live workshop, where faculty discussed each module. Then, faculty presented two case studies and led discussions around them. Bedi, who taught “Leading Yourself,” says that he focused on well-being and how that contributes to being a better leader overall in his module. “The Zambian radiologists work so hard and so long, I wanted to impart the importance of giving yourself time for sleep and connection with family and community,” he says.
Benefits for All
Sichizya reports that the course was well-received by all attendees. “I learned so much,” she says. “Initially, some of us thought, ‘What can you do with a one-day course?’ But now we’ve found ourselves referencing things we learned that one day. Leadership is an ongoing learning experience, but the course really helped give us the tools to use as effective leaders and continue learning.”
Bedi comments the faculty learned just as much as the attendees. “The loyalty, dedication, and purpose of these physicians was inspiring,” he says. “In the United States, our sense of purpose tends to get lost during the day-to-day. But it really reminded me why we are here as physicians.” Bedi also learned how the different cultural contexts and hierarchical structures in sub-Saharan Africa could affect Western leadership techniques. For example, he says, “The idea of ‘managing up’ is very much a Western thing and doesn’t work the same way there, especially for junior positions. We had to figure out how that might work within their cultural boundaries.”
Lee, who taught the “Leading Change” module, agrees. “The interactive nature of the sessions allowed us to learn about the issues they face which in many instances are very different from what we experience here,” Lee says. “However, we also found many similar issues demonstrating that despite differences in our practices, we also have much in common.”
“Being an Effective Leader” won’t just end in Zambia. After presenting the results of the pilot program to the ISR Executive Committee, planning is underway for additional workshops in 2022. The faculty also plan on following up with the sub-Saharan African radiologists and continue learning from one another. They’re also working on how to reproduce the course for different areas in Africa, as well as to other continents. McGinty says, “We’re definitely thinking about different economies worldwide and how we might offer this in other languages. It’s important that we don’t stop here — there’s a whole world out there.”