Each chilly December in Chicago, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) hosts the Engaged Leadership Academy (ELA), organized by the Professional and Community Engagement Committee under the auspices of the Council on Membership and Professional Development. The 2½-day course is limited to less than 40 members who apply almost a year in advance. Selected candidates typically have demonstrated a role, current and/or potential, as advocates, entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators to improve the field of pathology. The goal of the academy is to better prepare pathologists to lead the field forward through engaging and communicating with their peers and colleagues, as well as nonpathologists, in the ever-evolving health care atmosphere.1–3 Current issues that have a significant impact in the field of pathology include the opioid epidemic, digital pathology, the advent of advanced molecular testing and immunotherapy, and new techniques for obtaining patient samples. Added to that are issues surrounding the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, and the Protecting Access to Medicare Act. The ELA is committed to preparing pathologists to best serve our patients and the community.
PERSPECTIVE BY ADAM L. BOOTH, MD
As a second-year pathology resident, the first aspect of the ELA course I noticed was the diverse nature of the attendees, ranging from residents to practicing pathologists, private practice to academic practice, and even the department chair of a large academic institution. Following initial introductions, the attendees were divided into smaller groups. I was the only resident in my group, which included pathologists from a variety of different pathology practices. Engaged Leadership Academy instructors methodically guided us through a series of brief impromptu presentations with immediate feedback and poignant additions to improve our effectiveness as communicators. Anxiety quickly faded as all pathologists found themselves on equal footing; there was no hierarchy, only colleagues eager to learn together. I grew more comfortable and confident as the day progressed. An expert in strategic communications with the media led day 2 of the course. We were educated on social media communications, how to interview with the media, how to respond to questions by improvisation and thinking on our feet, and even favorable colors to wear that can draw attention to our face when we are speaking/presenting. Although medical education prepares you for unforeseen questions from attending physicians or patients, an unexpected question from a journalist on camera is an entirely different situation. I felt much of what I learned was that extra something that sets you apart, leaving a more meaningful impression on your audience. Since becoming an ELA graduate, I have encouraged anyone who will listen to apply for the academy.
PERSPECTIVE BY SINCHITA ROY-CHOWDHURI, MD, PHD
A medical professional society serves a multitude of functions that benefit its members and the medical community at large. These include opportunities to build careers by developing professional qualities of leadership and communication to become better educators and the next generation of leaders in the field. As a practicing pathologist, I believe developing effective communication skills is invaluable in providing empathic patient care and building core communication strategies with colleagues, peers, and nonmedical personnel. The various exercises we were asked to perform by the ELA instructors were invaluable for building self-confidence by harnessing the power of listening, engaging with an audience, and responding effectively to be better communicators. The practice sessions in smaller groups helped build camaraderie amongst the participants, encouraging learning from each other's strengths, and ultimately aimed at building networking skills. The ELA is a shining example of the CAP's commitment to effectively nurture and assimilate all its members and provide career development guidance, whether members are in training or in practice, in academia or in a private setting, in administrative leadership positions or just embarking on a professional career. In my professional life in academic medicine, these skills are necessary tools that I can use as I engage with residents and fellows, communicate with peers and colleagues, interact with my patients, promote health care research, provide education to improve the health of individuals and the community, and advocate for the field of pathology.
The vast array of members participating in ELA, including trainees as well as experienced pathologists, demonstrates how the CAP is working to enhance the skills of all pathologists in practice and laying the groundwork for the future of pathology. As we are all aware, pathology has an image problem, and pathologists are frequently stereotyped as “unsocial” in primarily non–patient-facing roles.4,5 However, despite what the stereotypes may have our patients and the public believe, in reality, pathologists are compassionate, caring physicians who see patients, sometimes in the clinic, but most frequently through the microscope or in a tissue sample.6,7 Our patients need us to have skills beyond diagnostics. Effective communication with administrators, policy makers, and journalists on behalf of our patients and our field is critical.8 These skills may not come naturally to many, but they must be acquired nonetheless so that we can be better advocates, effective communicators, and future leaders in pathology. The CAP ELA program aims at doing just that.
The authors would like to thank the College of American Pathologists; Carey August, MD; Leilani Valdes, MD; Michael Anthony Phipps, BA; and all those involved for creating such an incredible opportunity.