Leadership Development for Physicians

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Couldn’t ask for a more organized and thoughtful look at leadership, organizational issues, and topics facing us currently and in the future.
  • —Patrick Ha, MD
  • Physician, University of California, San Francisco

Program Overview

Academic health centers in the United States are experiencing major change as a result of the effects of health reform and financial pressures. In addition to the restructuring of the clinical enterprise, academic centers are being challenged to sustain their academic missions and priorities in the face of resource constraints. In order to tackle these challenges, institutions need physicians in administrative positions at all levels who can provide leadership and thoughtful managerial initiatives.

For over forty years Harvard has conducted intensive two-week executive development programs designed specifically for chairs, chiefs, and medical directors in clinical departments at major teaching hospitals. During that time, leaders from institutions in all regions of the United States have participated in and praised these unique educational programs.

Leadership Development for Physicians in Academic Health Centers is designed to serve a wide array of physician leaders. It convenes medical directors and chiefs of divisions from academic health centers together with an interdisciplinary faculty team for two weeks of intensive and systematic study of the critical leadership and management issues faced by physicians in administrative positions and academic health centers.


The curriculum is organized around the following interrelated courses taught by a faculty experienced in executive education for physicians and other key decision-makers in the health system:

  • Institutional Strategy
  • Financial Analysis
  • Operations Management
  • Organizational Issues
  • Conflict Resolution and Negotiation
  • Leadership
  • Health Policy

A carefully integrated curriculum permits participants to examine fundamental leadership and managerial issues from the perspective of several disciplines. The overriding purpose for learning concepts, techniques and skills in any of the management disciplines in this program is to understand their managerial use and limitations.

Teaching Methods

The principal method of instruction in the program is the case method, a technique pioneered and refined at the Harvard Business School. Most of the cases present actual problem situations familiar to physicians in administrative positions at academic health centers.

The case method confronts the participant with an actual management problem, halted at a point where decisions must be made, and empowers the participant to choose a course of action.

Participants go through a three-step study process. First, participants study each case independently. Then they meet in small discussion groups to test their individual analysis against those of their peers. Lastly, the entire class discusses the case, with the professor as a catalyst and guide. The professor points out considerations the class has overlooked; elicits from participants the lessons of experience; pursues each line of investigation to its conclusion; and finally, summarizes the discussion and draws out the major lessons it has taught.

Assigned readings and guest lecturers supplement and augment the use of cases. In addition, an important part of the learning process occurs during the informal exchange of insights and experience among participants and between participants and faculty.

Program Objectives

The program’s overall objective is to enhance and develop participants’ leadership abilities and effectiveness. This is accomplished by providing: increased understanding of their responsibilities as leaders; perspective on the critical leadership and management issues they face; and understanding and awareness of concepts and techniques relevant to management.

Upon Completion of the Program, Participants Will Have Gained:

  • Increased understanding of the responsibilities and tasks of leaders in complex institutions
  • Broader appreciation of the challenges and changes occurring in academic medical centers and the implications for their own institution and service or area of responsibility
  • New perspectives on issues they face currently and on those which arise in the future
  • Knowledge of relevant concepts and techniques in several key management disciplines
  • New methods to analyze problems and an enhanced capacity to identify the critical questions
  • Greater effectiveness as unit and institutional leaders in formulating and implementing initiatives and managing change

Credits and Logistics


Continuing Education Credit

All participants will receive a Certificate of Participation upon completion of the program.

Who Should Apply

The program is designed for physicians in administrative leadership positions in academic health centers, who lead a clinical division and report directly to the chair of their department. Potential participants include individuals in positions such as chief of a clinical division within a major clinical department, vice chair of a clinical department, medical director with similar responsibilities as a division chief, and associate dean for clinical affairs. Participants will be selected with a view to ensuring an appropriate mix and balance in the class.

Application and Admission

Early application is encouraged. Qualified candidates are admitted on a rolling, space-available basis, and programs often fill early. The priority deadline is July 15, 2020, but we continue to accept applications until the program reaches capacity. No payment is due at the time of application. Applicants who are admitted to the program are required to pay the program fee to reserve their place.

Because this is a full-time, residential program and because of the cumulative and interactive nature of the educational experience, applicants who are accepted must plan and agree to attend and participate in all sessions of the program.

Program Organization

Classes and discussion groups are scheduled six days a week, Monday through Saturday. Preparation for classes averages six hours a day. Registration is scheduled for 3:00 – 4:00 pm on the opening Sunday of the program. The following Sunday is free except for cases to be prepared for Monday’s classes. The program concludes on the second Friday at 2:00 pm. Participants are required to free themselves of professional and family responsibilities for the period of the program so that full attention can be devoted to the educational experience.

How to Apply

For your convenience you may review the list of application questions for the program. We advise applicants to prepare their answers in a word document and then cut and paste them into the online application in order to avoid losing their work in the unlikely event of a technical difficulty. Once your answers have been prepared and you are ready to continue with the application process please click the “apply now” button above. Thank you for your cooperation, we look forward to reviewing your application.