Share this article on:

Bridging the Leadership Development Gap: Recommendations for Medical Education

Verma, Amol A. MD, MPhil; Bohnen, Jordan D. MD, MBA

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31824d550e
Letters to the Editor

Resident in internal medicine, University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;

Resident in general surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Acknowledgments: The authors thank Geoffrey Anderson, MD, PhD, and Allan Detsky, MD, PhD, professors in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, for their contributions to this work.

Back to Top | Article Outline

To the Editor:

Calls for increased physician leadership are growing in number and strength.1–3 The recent proliferation of leadership curricula in medical schools and residency programs suggests that educators are beginning to believe that focused leadership development efforts early in medical education could produce more and better-trained physician leaders. Our own experience developing an innovative leadership education and development program in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine is consistent with study findings at the Mayo Medical School, in which 85% of student leaders felt leadership should be taught in medical school.4 We are convinced that students enter medical school with an interest in leadership and a desire to build their skills. Yet medical curricula have been slow to develop frameworks in support of these interests. To harness this enthusiasm, medical schools must actively strive to facilitate leadership education.

Toward this end, we offer five evidence-based suggestions: Leadership development programs should

  • be student focused and flexible,
  • encourage formal mentorship,
  • expose students to disciplines outside of medicine,
  • be rigorously evaluated, and
  • engage accreditation agencies to measure and promote leadership development.

Two meta-analyses, covering studies from 1951 to 2001, demonstrated that leadership development programs can be effective across many disciplines, particularly when they are tailored to the needs of the trainee and reflect the objectives of the organization.5,6 These formalized approaches, which mix lessons in theory with practical experiences, should be used to help medical students realize their leadership potential.

Amol A. Verma, MD, MPhil

Resident in internal medicine, University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Toronto, Ontario, Canada;

Jordan D. Bohnen, MD, MBA

Resident in general surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Back to Top | Article Outline


1. Gunderman R, Kanter SL.. Educating physicians to lead hospitals. Acad Med.. 2009;84:1348–1451
2. Pronovost PJ, Miller MR, Wachter RM, Meyer GS.. Perspective: Physician leadership in quality. Acad Med.. 2009;84:1651–1656
3. Bloom N, Proper C, Seiller S, Van Reenen J.. Management practices in the NHS. CentrePiece.. 2010;14:16–19
4. Varkey P, Peloquin J, Reed D, Lindor K, Harris I.. Leadership curriculum in undergraduate medical education: A study of student and faculty perspectives. Med Teach.. 2009;31:244–250
5. Burke MJ, Day RR.. A cumulative study of the effectiveness of managerial training. J Appl Psychol.. 1986;71:232–245
6. Collins DB, Holton EF.. The effectiveness of managerial leadership development programs: A meta-analysis of studies from 1982 to 2001. Hum Resour Dev Q.. 2004;15:217–248
© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges