American Association for Physician Leadership

Being an Influencer, Being a Mentor, Being a Leader

Peter B. Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, MCCM, FAAPL(Hon)

May 2, 2024

Volume 11, Issue 3, Pages 1-3


Healthcare is a complex and dynamic industry that requires constant innovation, collaboration, and adaptation. A physician leader has the opportunity to influence the quality and delivery of care, the policies and practices of organizations, and the education and development of peers and juniors. Being an influencer in the industry, at some level, is a responsibility for all physicians, who are, most assuredly, already leaders in this industry.

Like many of you, I have enjoyed the benefits of technology while looking for a better or simpler way to manage the various aspects of patient care and aspects of my life. I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore innovator, but I’m certainly a proverbial early adopter.

For those in the know, technology can be an expensive practice if reasonable behavioral maturity is not exhibited. Accordingly, when Twitter and LinkedIn arrived, I engaged. It didn’t take long, however, for both accounts to be hacked, and I was suddenly being recognized as someone trying to sell some form of weight loss and weight control substance with an unpronounceable name. Fortunately, my maturity kicked in and I backed away from both accounts in rapid succession; I now follow them cautiously.

Two significant trends are under way in general society, and each of us is routinely trying to comprehend and assimilate them in some fashion. Social media came first and has been generally accepted; the other, generative AI, has taken industry by storm in the past year. There is no doubt that both are here to stay and will evolve in some fashion.

The former has been scrutinized seriously by governments around world and the latter was the dominant focus of conversation among industry leaders at recent Davos economic forums. Neither has easy resolution in regard to the benefits or dangers of their impacts on society. So how should physician leaders embrace or navigate the territory? There are many suggestions but no simple answers.

The AAPL’s 50-year focus on physician leadership supports its belief that at some level all physicians are leaders; therefore, as leaders in healthcare and society, all physicians have the opportunity to leverage technology and its various tools.

Leveraging technology for patient care delivery has been a part of medical care since the inception of the profession, and innumerable technologies have actually been invented or developed by physicians. Similarly, physicians have been renowned for their influence in the industry and in society as a whole.

Physicians have used a variety of communication channels to influence a host of topic areas. While all physicians are certainly leaders, all physicians can also be influencers!

For curiosity’s sake, I asked a common generative AI tool how many physicians are on public media or are social media influencers. The response was:

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have information on the exact number of physicians who are on public media or are social media influencers. Public media encompasses a wide range of platforms, and it would be difficult to determine an exact number. However, there are many physicians who use public and social media platforms to share their knowledge and expertise with a wider audience. Some physicians have large followings and are considered influencers in their field.”

Well then, I couldn’t help myself, could I? I asked: Why is physician leadership important?

“Physician leadership is important for several reasons. Physicians have a unique perspective on healthcare, as they are on the front-lines of patient care and have a deep understanding of the medical needs of their patients. This knowledge and experience can be invaluable in shaping healthcare policies and practices. Additionally, physician leaders can serve as role models and mentors for other healthcare professionals, promoting a culture of excellence and collaboration. Physician leadership can also help to bridge the gap between the clinical and administrative sides of healthcare, ensuring that decisions are made with the best interests of patients in mind.”

And, what are some challenges faced by physician leaders?

“Physician leaders face a number of challenges in their roles:

  • Balancing clinical and administrative responsibilities.

  • Navigating complex healthcare systems.

  • Managing change and resistance when trying to implement changes.

  • Keeping up with advances in medicine.

  • Addressing financial constraints.”

Those last two answers weren’t too bad, were they? So how can physicians become effective influencers in healthcare? And what are the benefits of healthcare mentorship and leadership for physicians? What skills and attributes do physicians need to cultivate?


Mentorship and leadership are two interrelated concepts that involve influencing others in a positive and constructive way. Typically, mentorship is the process of providing guidance, support, feedback, and encouragement to someone who is less experienced or knowledgeable in a specific area of healthcare. Generally, leadership is the process of inspiring, motivating, and empowering others to achieve a common goal or vision in healthcare. Both require the ability to communicate effectively, to build trust and rapport, and to foster a culture of learning and improvement.

Mentorship and leadership can take on many forms, depending on the context and the goals. For example, we can be mentors or leaders to colleagues, students, patients, staff, our respective communities, and within our profession.

We can also be mentors or leaders in domains, such as clinical, academic, administrative, or advocacy. The scope and impact of our influences may vary, but the essence is the same: We are using our knowledge, skills, and experience to help others grow and succeed in the industry or in society.

Separate from current social media posters wanting to become so-called social media influencers, being an effective influencer as a physician in healthcare is not easy, but it is possible. It often requires a combination of skills, attributes, and behaviors that can usually be developed over time.

Key qualities of an effective influencer in healthcare are:

  • Expertise: Having a solid foundation of knowledge and skills in your area of expertise while keeping yourself updated on the latest developments and trends.

  • Communication: Communicating clearly, concisely, and persuasively by means of oral, written, visual, and digital media. You must listen actively, empathize, understand the needs and perspectives of others, and tailor your own message accordingly.

  • Relationships: Building trust and rapport, collaborating and cooperating with others to leverage the strengths and diversity of your team and network. This includes managing and resolving conflicts while providing and receiving constructive feedback.

  • Innovation: Thinking creatively and critically while generating and implementing new ideas and solutions in healthcare. Embracing and managing the risks and uncertainties. Learning from failures and successes.

  • Advocacy: Attempting to influence the policies and regulatory or financial decisions affecting healthcare, engaging with other stakeholders and allies by building coalitions, collaborations, and partnerships.

  • Integrity: Acting in an honest, ethical, and professional manner by upholding the values and standards of the profession. Respecting and protecting the rights and dignity of others by promoting diversity and inclusion while also acknowledging their own biases and limitations.

  • Passion: Developing a clearer, more compelling vision for the future of healthcare that provides a renewed sense of purpose and direction. We can all benefit by providing a positive, optimistic attitude within our perseverance to overcome the numerous obstacles and challenges in healthcare.


Building your influence as a healthcare mentor and leader is a lifelong process that requires commitment and effort. Leadership is important for improving the quality and safety of care, enhancing your professional and personal development and that of others, while advancing the innovation and transformation of healthcare. Each requires a combination of skills, attributes, and behaviors that can be learned and developed over time. By enhancing your influence as a healthcare mentor and leader, you can create an influential impact in your own field of expertise and beyond.

Remember, leading and creating significant positive change is our overall intent as physician leaders. AAPL focuses on maximizing the potential of physician-led, inter-professional leadership to help create personal and organizational transformation that benefits patient outcomes, improves workforce wellness, and refines the delivery of healthcare internationally.

Therefore, as physician leaders, we must embrace the complexities of our industry, and we can choose to embrace the opportunities in which our individual and collective energies can have the most beneficial value for our industry — a transformation toward value-based care highly predicated on the ROI that has been inherent in the patient-physician relationship for centuries. Let us all continue to maximize the opportunities before us.

Through this AAPL community, we all can continue seeking deeper levels of professional and personal development, and to recognize ways we can generate constructive influence at all levels. As physician leaders, let us become more engaged, stay engaged, and help others to become engaged. Exploring and creating the opportunities for broader levels of positive transformation in healthcare is within our reach — individually and collectively.

Peter B. Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, MCCM, FAAPL(Hon)

Peter Angood, MD, is the chief executive officer and president of the American Association for Physician Leadership. Formerly, Dr. Angood was the inaugural chief patient safety officer for The Joint Commission and senior team leader for the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Patient Safety Solutions. He was also senior adviser for patient safety to the National Quality Forum and National Priorities Partnership and the former chief medical officer with the Patient Safety Organization of GE Healthcare.

With his academic trauma surgery practice experience ranging from the McGill University hospital system in Canada to the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Angood completed his formal academic career as a full professor of surgery, anesthesia and emergency medicine. A fellow in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Angood is an author in more than 200 publications and a past president for the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

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For over 45 years.

The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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formerly known as the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE)