Physicians, especially plastic surgeons, are underrepresented in hospital leadership. As such, the steps an aspiring plastic surgeon should take toward assuming a high-level administrative role remain unclear. The authors aim to profile the chief executive officers and surgeons-in-chief at top-ranked U.S. hospitals with the goal of better characterizing the attributes of institutional leaders.
Chief executive officers and surgeons-in-chief at top-ranking hospitals in the 2019 to 2020 U.S. News and World Report “Best Hospitals Honor Roll” were included in this study. For each leader, sex, title, degrees, years of experience, total number of publications, practice specialty (for physician leaders), and previous leadership roles in national societies were reviewed. Descriptive statistical analyses were performed.
A total of 99 leadership positions at 66 institutions were included. Of these, 67 were chief executive officers and 32 were surgeons-in-chief. Overall, 28 of 67 chief executive officers (42 percent) were physicians—23 nonsurgeons and five surgeons. Of all surgeon executives, only two were plastic surgeons, and both were surgeons-in-chief. The “average” physician–chief executive officer had 24 years of experience, no M.B.A., over 100 publications, zero to one fellowship, and was involved in national leadership. There was no difference in professional qualifications (defined as years of experience, business training, number of publications and fellowships, and leadership positions) between nonsurgeon- and surgeon–chief executive officers, or between plastic surgeons and other surgeons in leadership positions.
Despite possessing adequate qualifications, plastic surgeons are underrepresented in American health care institutional leadership roles. Aspiring plastic surgeon leaders should lean on their peer credibility and experience delivering patient-centered care to succeed in leadership roles.