Member Spotlight: Dr. Bart Sachs, Med School Professor and  Chief of Staff

By AAPL Staff
November 1, 2017

He embraces team concepts and encourages physician leaders to develop groups that can work collaboratively toward a common good in patient care.

On YouTube, there’s a video from the Medical University of South Carolina that features one of its physician leaders talking about the importance of working collaboratively in today’s health care environment.

sachs box

In his daily role at Medical University of South Carolina, Bart Sachs, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAPL, practices what he preaches on the video — “No one individual works alone,” he says — but that’s also true of his work on the Council of Fellows for the American Association for Physician Leadership, in which he and other team members collectively review association fellowship applications.

Fellowship, he says, represents another collaborative opportunity — interacting with others who share common

Q In the video, you talk about embracing being part of a team even though you’re a seasoned physician leader. “Sometimes, I direct the care and sometimes I participate in it,” you say. Why is that mindset important?

A Everyone’s familiar with how General Electric grew during Jack Welch’s tenure [as chairman and CEO, 1981-2001]. I remember studying his work and seeing how he shook up the organization by establishing work units and workgroups. The members weren’t based on title, but rather organized by function, and, as he put it, the ones who can’t adapt, can’t survive. I’ve always tried to do that in my time in leadership roles — to facilitate groups and bring the right people together who can collaborate, coordinate and support each other. Personally, I don’t have all of those strengths in every situation, but the right group will.”

Q That’s not always easy for physicians to embrace, though, is it?

A Well, think about what it took to become a physician in the first place. We went to school and had to do very well. We had to learn to work independently and get good grades just to get into med school, which is very competitive. It’s not an environment that encourages people to work collaboratively. Then, suddenly, we’re being asked to collaborate, a new adaptation. And it’s harder as we go through this transition in health care. It’s a dynamic, unsettled field right now. But our traditions are very different than where medicine is going in the future.

QHow so?

A People in med school now, or just coming out, are looking for a more balanced life — not working 24/7, weekend shifts, etc. They know that to be successful, they must collaborate, do handoffs, communicate and work as a team of providers. Successful physician leaders have to be adept and develop the groups that can work together toward a common good in patient care. Now, as always, a leader is really someone who can inspire a team.

QSpeaking of teamwork, you played football at Harvard University in the 1970s. What did you learn about leadership from that experience?

A It goes with everything we talked about earlier — you’re part of a team, one of 11 players on the field. You can’t do everything yourself. Also, when I played, I was an offensive guard. Players in that position today are much bigger than I ever was. But, like I said before, things change.

QThe so-called “Big Game” — Harvard vs. Yale, the annual Ivy League classic — is Nov. 18. Any predictions?

A [Laughs.] Do you even have to ask?

To suggest an AAPL member for this ongoing series, email us at journal@physicianleaders.org.

Topics: Journal

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