by Debra Parsons, MD, FACP, President, Colorado Medical Society

In preparing to pass the baton to our incoming president, David Markenson, MD, MBA, and for this final Colorado Medicine president’s letter, I reflected on my year as your Colorado Medical Society president. Zooming out on my greater role as a physician, I think we can all benefit from pondering “why” we do our work; it is so easy to get lost in the “what” and the “how.”

As your president, I checked off the day-to-day tasks outlined in our CMS operational plan, doing my part with physician colleagues and CMS staff to keep our society humming along.

While we rose to these challenges, we strived to keep an eye on the bigger picture, why our medical society exists: to champion health care issues that improve patient care, promote physician professional satisfaction and create healthier communities in Colorado.

Truly, the CMS mission demonstrates that the physicians of Colorado are members of an altruistic profession and not a self-interested guild.

I participated in the Advanced Leadership Training Program (ALTP) with the Regional Institute for Health and Environmental Leadership (RIHEL) a few years ago and was greatly inspired by one of the recommended books, Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek. In it, he made the point that “great leaders sacrifice their self-interests for the good of those in their care.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? As physicians we are called to give our all to help our patients and humanity as a whole to achieve a brighter future.

Sinek’s point also resonates in our practices: Whether you’re in a one-physician practice, a 20-physician group or a 1,200-physician organization, we are leaders to the providers and staff who support us. We can help create an environment where people naturally thrive, as Sinek recommends. It’s about putting people first, helping them feel both valued and an integral part of the team. It is important for everyone to see the impact of our time and effort in order for our work to have meaning; this meaning then inspires us to work harder and do more, and creates greater organizational stability, better long-term performance, greater bonds and deeper loyalties, he says.

Leadership character and the ability to cooperate and collaborate outweigh skills and knowledge. We can work to develop trust to serve the people we lead, follow the rules and know when to break them. Strong organizations work in their peoples’ best interest; weak organizations work in their own best interest.

Please allow me to share other highlights from Sinek’s examples of excellent leadership that are easily applicable to medicine.

  1. Integrity matters – incorruptibility is the bedrock of trust when our words and deeds are consistent with our actions.
  2. Cooperation doesn’t mean agreement…but rather a willingness to work together to advance the greater good.
  3. Lead for our people and our patients, and not the numbers; people are our No. 1 priority.
  4. Reject incentive structures that create lack of concern, selfishness and cloudy judgment; instead strive for those that reward cooperation, information-sharing and asking for help.

I thank you for the opportunity to have served as your CMS president this past year and, as your immediate past president, I look forward to continuing to work with all of you alongside David Markenson, our incoming president, and Sami Diab, MD, your president-elect.

As a last tidbit from Sinek: “Human beings have thrived for 50,000 years not because we were driven to serve ourselves but because we are inspired to serve others.” I encourage all Colorado physicians to keep up the good work you do and periodically reflect on “why” you do what you do.


Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine, President's Letter