Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. -- Native American Proverb
Reflecting on 10 years of service as the LGH chief physician, I am most grateful for learning new ideas, connecting with learned and passionate clinicians, and helping to position physician leadership to reshape culture and deliver nationally recognized results. Through the IHI, Brookings Institute, CMO Leader Board and a number of physician leader groups, gifted individuals have shared their experiences, while I proudly share the wonderful work done here.
Dr. Nancy Koehn, Harvard Ph.D. and historian at the Harvard Business School, is listening and challenging physicians to think differently about health care. Drawing upon stories about leadership from other times and industries, she presents a strong case that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, and leaders are transformed by confronting the storm. Dr. Koehn’s book, “Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times,” tells the story of five such leaders.
Ernest Shackleton saved his shipwrecked crew after what began as a mission to be the first to cross Antarctica in 1914 became a mission of survival. Abraham Lincoln’s mission started with abolishing slavery and later became the salvation of the union. He drew upon personal resilience honed by his early political defeats to endure our nation’s bloodiest conflict. Frederick Douglass’ experiences as a slave and a free man gave him a platform to champion and achieve black freedom. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who resisted Nazi evil through his religious teachings and building community, paid the supreme price just weeks before WWII ended. In 1962, Rachel Carson gave voice to science with her writing skills and called us to address the impact of pesticides on the environment. Many recognize Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” as the beginning of the environmental movement in this country. Her struggle with breast cancer and her own mortality seemed to parallel the urgency she felt for the planet.
Dr. Koehn’s extensively researched book took over 10 years to write. She weaved her experience as an executive coach into the narrative. Despite different circumstances and times, common themes emerge, like navigating point to point during crisis mode and slowing down or doing nothing at all when so much is uncertain. She highlights the value of resilience derived from experiences and commitment to a worthy goal. All five leaders recognized the larger moment around them, leveraging the power of words and writing to persuade and teach. Working from their own humanity, they built communities of support and strength.
Over 60 years ago, John F. Kennedy authored/collaborated on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage.” Kennedy recounted the stories of eight U.S. senators who shared one heroic quality: courage, or as Ernest Hemingway stated, “grace under pressure.” Despite pressure from lobbyists, constituents, re-election and the need for compromise, each demonstrated personal integrity and risked their political careers. Kansas Sen. Edmund G. Ross voted against impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, who modeled reconstruction efforts after Lincoln’s “malice toward none.” With his vote and those of six other Republicans, Ross saved the stature of the presidency and the potential autocracy of the legislative branch. He recognized the moment, and in his words, “looked down into my open grave.” Even after 60 years, the book is pertinent and worth a summertime read. I still remember this lesson from Mr. O’Neill’s history class.
Dr. Koehn challenges us to learn every day and add tools to our box; recognize the opportunity for our profession and step up; and understand that success begins with service to purpose and conscience. The strength comes from within, transformed with each challenge and struggle to prepare for the next.
… You do not have to know about Plato or Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., from the forward of “Profiles in Courage”
Just for fun
You may have read about Dr. David Newcomer’s aerial photography hobby in last November’s Progress Notes. In honor of Father’s Day, can you guess the subject of this photo? The first five correct answers sent to the feedback link below will win a prize.
Lee M. Duke II, M.D.
Chief Physician Executive
Progress Notes' Editor-in-Chief