Trading a white coat for the business suit of an executive offers its share of rewards, but requires hard work and added responsibility, say rheumatologists who have transitioned from clinical practice or academia to the boardroom.
The job of a physician executive comes with added responsibilities, such as reporting to governing boards and reviewing performances of fellow doctors. These are areas that rheumatologists may not have been exposed to but should consider before pursuing an executive track, says Barbara Linney, vice-president of career development for the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE), an organization that offers training and career services to physician executives.
Still, for rheumatologists who relish collaborating with other leaders in the field, multitasking, and making big-picture decisions for their organizations, a career as a physician executive can be challenging and rewarding.
Careers in Hospital Administration
A man who laughs and jokes a lot, Robert Lahita, MD, chair of medicine and corporate vice president at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J., thoroughly enjoys his job and thrives under pressure. It takes a certain kind of temperament—a mixture of ambition and pleasant personality—to become a good physician executive, he says.
“You have to be able to organize, and conduct yourself and your relationships with other people at a professional level. And you have to be firm. You have to be judgmental and you have to be able to make decisions at the spur of the moment,” says Dr. Lahita. “I think all those things are extremely important to being a leader.”
“Nobody should take this job unless you’re willing to do six things at one time and you can handle stress,” he says. “I take a lot of antacids.”
The author of several books on lupus, autoimmune disease, and rheumatoid arthritis and an ACR Master, Dr. Lahita obtained his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College and a doctorate in microbiology from Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia. He completed his residency at New York Hospital and Rockefeller Hospital in New York City. Before his current post, he served as division chief of rheumatology for 25 years at St. Luke’s Roosevelt and St. Vincent hospitals, also in New York.
Dr. Lahita begins his day early at the hospital, making quick rounds, and then moves to teaching responsibilities, meetings, employee reviews, and sometimes more meetings. He also serves as director of safety and performance improvement for his hospital. Two days a week he sees patients.