1st Edition

Physician Leader How Exam Room Experience Drives Leadership Excellence

By Hanah Polotsky, Lisa Williams Copyright 2024
    292 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    292 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    292 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Productivity Press

    Physicians are often asked to lead healthcare teams, departments, divisions, practices, and hospitals. Though many of them are experts in their fields, they are rarely prepared or educated in business management and leadership. Based on the authors’ interviews with many physician and non-physician executives and leaders, medical training contributes little to leadership skills. Many physicians leave medical training with a command-and-control leadership style that later has to be unlearned to succeed in a team-based healthcare environment.

    This book will help physician leaders to shed derailers and authoritarian leadership tendencies picked up in years of medical training. It is intended for (1) physicians who are transitioning to healthcare leadership roles, (2) senior-level physician and non-physician leaders as a coaching model to develop their physician leader direct reports, and (3) administrative leaders who are partnering with physician leaders.

    Both authors progressed from mid-level leadership roles to the C-suite, one as a physician leader and one as an administrative leader. As such, they have leveraged their operational excellence expertise to design the Iterative Leadership Model that includes the leader’s mindset, Leadership Strategies, and a coaching framework: GUIDES (Gather, Understand, Identify, Design, Execute, and Self-Reflect) that is based on the scientific method, PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act), A3 thinking, and the SOAP (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan) note format.

    The authors masterfully integrate personal reflections, coaching examples, illustrative fictional vignettes, and GUIDES exercises to support leaders in the self-development and self-improvement of seven critical Leadership Attributes: strategic thinking, effective communication, coaching, team-building, change management, continuous learning, and problem-solving.

    Foreword by Jack Cochran
    Foreword by Jeff Krawcek
    Preface: The Case for Physician Leadership
    About the Authors

    1. Introducing the Iterative Leadership Model
    2. Seven Leadership Attributes for Successful Physician Leaders
    3. Strategic Thinker
    4. Effective Communicator
    5. Coach
    6. Team Builder
    7. Change Manager
    8. Learner-in-Chief
    9. Problem-Solver
    10. Conclusion
    Appendix 1: GUIDES Development Plan Template
    Appendix 2: Personal and Organizational Change Models
    Appendix 3: GUIDES A3 Framework for Iterative Problem-Solving Template
    Appendix 4: GUIDES Cross-Functional Redesign Model



    Hanah Polotsky is a driven physician leader and a tireless change agent in service of providing excellent patient care and creating an enjoyable work environment for physicians and other caregivers. Hanah embraces and exemplifies a process improvement mindset, implementing management methods grounded in Operational Excellence, the Deming Management Philosophy, and Training Within Industry. Originally from Belarus, Hanah graduated from New York University with a Bachelor's in Biochemistry and received her medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, then completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center. She spent the next six years working in the general internal medicine practice, while also teaching residents and medical students. In 2010, Hanah completed the Endocrinology Fellowship at New York Hospital – Cornell and Memorial Sloan-Ketting Cancer Center. She is board-certified in both internal medicine and endocrinology.

     Transitioning into physician leadership in 2012, Hanah has held various positions including Internal Medicine Chief, Medical Office Chief, Director of Operational Excellence, Vice President Medical Home Care Delivery, and Enterprise Regional Medical Director. In these roles, she has  implemented and continuously improved efficient care delivery practice models and coached and developed physician leaders. She completed the Master of Business Operational Excellence at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business in December of 2017, with a focus on spreading operational excellence across the enterprise.


    Lisa Thames Williams has guided and led organizations through their unique challenges for over 25 years.  Her visionary outlook combined with operational understanding has proven to be a winning combination.  Her areas of expertise include physician and executive coaching and development, organizational strategy, strategic planning and deployment, organizational change, succession planning and process improvement at all organizational levels.  Lisa's operational and consulting experience includes small as well as large, complex organizations while emphasizing thoroughness, collaboration, and positive creativity.  She has delivered professional training in leadership development, organizational strategy development, facilitation, team building, and process improvement.  At the college level, Lisa has taught courses in management communications, research methods and statistics, and organizational theory and behavior.  She also served on a governor-appointed state board that provides regulatory oversight to nursing home administrators.  Lisa held several key leadership positions prior to her consulting career including Hospital Administrator for Group Health Cooperative's two-hospital system and East King County (Washington state) Project Director; Assistant Hospital Administrator at the University of Mississippi Medical Center; Nursing Home Administrator at Jaquith Nursing Home at Mississippi State Hospital.  Lisa has partnered and consulting with dozens of organizations across the United States including Providence Health System, Texas Tech University Primary Care Physicians, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Legacy House, MemorialCare Health System, The Nemours Foundation, Children's Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota, University of Washington, Sutter Health, and The Polyclinic, to name a few.  Her career continued in the healthcare realm by taking on the role of Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Coach for The Polyclinic (now a part of OptumCare) located in Seattle, Washington.  She was then promoted to Chief Administrative Officer of the Pacific Northwest for OptumCare.  Lisa recently retired and is enjoying spending time with her family.  Lisa holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy & Administration, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, a Nursing Home Administrators License, and is a Graduate of the John C. Stennis Institute for Government Executives.

    “Through creative storytelling and practical, humble personal examples, Hanah Polotsky and Lisa Williams did a superb job guiding physicians in translating clinical skills into healthcare leadership mastery.” 

    Scott Smith, MD

    SVP & Medical Director Value Based Care, Millennium Physician Group


    Physician Leader is a must read for any physician jumping into the turbulent waters of healthcare leadership.

     Bruce Schroffel, MS, MPH
    President and CEO, University of Colorado Hospitals (retired)


    “Why wouldn’t physicians translate their exam room skills to lead successfully as physician leaders? Hanah and Lisa demonstrate how to apply scientific thinking and problem-solving to self-development as a physician leader. They skillfully use coaching and story-telling to illustrate how to capitalize on exam room skills to lead daily improvement.”

     John E. Billi, MD
    Professor Emeritus of Internal Medicine and Former Chief Engineer, Michigan Quality System, University of Michigan


    “The GUIDES Framework for self-development is a brilliant and indispensable tool for sharpening your leadership skills. Whatever stage your transition from physician to physician leader is in - from just starting your first leadership role to many years as an established physician leader - this book's straightforward and concise advice will resonate and educate. I only wish it had been available during my career transitional years.”

    Harley A. Rotbart, MD
    Professor and Vice Chair Emeritus, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine


    “Primarily written for physicians tasked to step into new administrative roles, Hanah and Lisa thoughtfully and eloquently coach them in how to apply familiar exam room problem-solving to leadership and management. Real world experiences, along with sample case studies, infuse new perspectives into previously mundane leadership lessons, combining to create thoughtful - and practical - information for both new and experienced physician leaders.”

     Justin Chang, MD
    President, CirrusMD Provider Network