If you’re aspiring to become the head of a rheumatology department, you’ll most likely need an excellent reputation as a rheumatologist, as well as a significant portfolio in basic or clinical research or educational scholarship. Education and training at a highly regarded academic medical center in rheumatology and experience working for a few years within such a division are also advantageous.
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Typically, division chiefs hold MD or DO degrees, but scientists with PhD degrees can also be competitive candidates. Chaim Putterman, MD, chief, Division of Rheumatology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y., also earned an MBA to better understand and implement the financial, business language and tools that have become increasingly important to running an academic division.
Being in charge also requires managerial skills that typically aren’t taught in medical school, residency or fellowship. “An effective leader has experience on many academic committees, both as a participant and as a leader,” says Bernard R. Rubin, DO, MPH, division head, Rheumatology, Henry Ford Health System, and clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.
Dr. Rubin also found that volunteering as a board member for a private school and serving on ACR committees provided valuable managerial experience. “These activities have helped me tackle human resource issues,” he says.
Being able to mold and encourage younger faculty is another component of the job. You’ll need to employ succession planning, so encouraging junior faculty to obtain leadership training and assisting them in these endeavors is vital. “You also need to be able to hire well and selectively [to] create a great team,” Dr. Rubin says.
The department chief must be able to think strategically and have a vision for the division going forward. “I make business decisions based on data and facts, avoiding intuition or gut feelings, so faculty will understand the reasons behind my decisions—reinforcing a sense that decisions aren’t arbitrary, but reasoned and well thought out,” Dr. Rubin says.
Advantages & Disadvantages
As someone in a position of authority, you’ll have the ability to effect change and have influence. “You’ll have closer interactions with senior leadership of your department and the medical center, and you’ll hear about new programs being considered that you can promote or discourage,” Dr. Putterman says. “This [interaction] is an important opportunity to highlight your specialty, and gives you an important voice in shaping institutional initiatives.”