By Richard Quinn
A few years back, when Atlanta was still home, Leon Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, FACEP, didn’t tell himself he wanted to run a hospital in Northern Florida. But he did set a long-term goal to continue his rising career path in healthcare administration.
So in 2016, he left his positions at Emory School of Medicine and Grady Memorial Hospital to become vice president for health affairs at the University of Florida and dean of the school’s College of Medicine – Jacksonville. A year later, he added the title of chief executive officer of UF Health Jacksonville.
“I didn’t write down I was going to be dean and CEO of a hospital,” Dr. Haley said in his ACEP19 session, “Top 5 Habits of Highly Successful Emergency Physicians.” “But I knew I wanted to get further into the health administration stream … so that’s the way I worded that goal.”
The five habits that Dr. Haley touts are setting goals of varying length; committing to consistent daily rituals; remembering that friends and family – and personal well-being – really do matter; viewing each shift as an opportunity; and realizing that always seeking to be a mentor or mentee ensures continual learning.
Dr. Haley’s goals range from daily to yearly benchmarks, plus setting a four-year vision for professional and personal development. He then continually updates his goals.
“What do you want to be professionally?” Dr. Haley said. “Is it down the residency pathway? Is it you want to be a department chair, a division chief? What do you want to do personally? Because what we end up doing is these long-term strategic plans (where) we write down what we want to be from a job perspective, but we don’t do a very good job of, ‘What do we want to do personally?’”
Part of setting goals is knowing obstacles will arise. But longer-term thinking helps anticipate some of those barriers, Dr. Haley said.
“You always have the what-ifs,” he added. “My dad’s 86, my mother is 81. They’re both very healthy right this minute … What if they get sick? How am I going to manage that? Who’s going to take care of that?”
While long-term goals set the vision, the path there starts anew daily. For Dr. Haley, each day start with a 4:30 a.m. wake-up, but he won’t his email until 7:45 a.m., just so he can focus first on preparing for the day.
Dr. Haley encourages physicians to remember that time spent with loved ones – and taking care of one’s self – is as important as time spent with patients. He also promotes that viewing yourself as a mentor or a mentee helps ensure a career of perpetual learning.
For emergency physicians, that philosophy also means looking at each shift as a chance to see what makes the specialty gratifying professionally and personally. Even holiday shifts.
“I always looked at working on Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s as something that we do,” Dr. Haley said. “It’s special. We have the ability to take care of somebody on Christmas Day when they’re not feeling well or a holiday where they’re not great. That makes us unique.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.