ASCO Leadership Skills Seminar: Professional Skills Not Learned in Fellowship

Jan 30, 2015

By Ted A. James, MD, MS, FACS
University of Vermont Medical Center

As a surgical oncologist involved in patient care at an academic cancer center, I appreciate the benefit and value of a multidisciplinary team approach to cancer patient care. Much of my academic work has focused on outcomes research and quality improvement in oncology. I recently received an award from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation to develop an interprofessional curriculum in patient safety and quality improvement at the University of Vermont. In addition to interprofessional education programs for our medical students, we have developed interprofessional team training programs for our oncology care delivery teams. Evidence suggests that improving clinical skills in communication and teamwork can have a positive impact on the safety and quality of care delivered to patients. I was therefore very interested in the ASCO Leadership Skills Seminar, in order to delve further into these issues as they pertain to clinical oncology, specifically team development and resolving conflict.

Having previously obtained a Master’s degree in Health Care Managemen tfrom the Harvard School of Public Health, I was familiar with leadership theory. I found that the ASCO seminar provided an excellent review of the key principles of organizational behavior and team dynamics, as well as creating a stimulating environment within whic hthese issues could be explored with other professionals in clinical oncology. Learning about the shared challenges and experiences of my colleagues was enlightening and constructive.


Ted A. James, MD, MS, FACS
Institution: Associate Professor of Surgery, Director of Skin and Soft Tissue Surgical Oncology, and Medical Director of Clinical Simulation, University of Vermont Medical Center; Vermont State Chair, Commission on Cancer
Member since: 2009


The content addressed in the seminar would be very helpful for early-career oncologists as they begin to navigate their careers and establish their professional identities. Furthermore, these leadership and self-assessment skills are extremely valuable throughout one’s professional career. The personal inventory alone, which was completed during the beginning of the course, was particularly helpful in gaining greater insight into my personal strengths, areas of vulnerability, and styles of interpersonal interaction. The information obtained from this seminar will remain useful as I progress in my career.

The ASCO Leadership Skills Seminar reinforced my prior management training and provided a framework to help address organizational issues within our cancer center. Since completing the course, I have begun to work with other members of our cancer center leadership committee to create faculty development programs in professionalism, teamwork, and communication. We seek to identify opportunities to enhance teamwork in our cancer care delivery process. I also plan to incorporate material from the ASCO Leadership Skills Seminar into new educational programs for our oncology fellows, residents, and medical students.

The ASCO Leadership Skills Seminar provided me with a rich network of colleagues in clinical oncology, further developed my personal leadership skills, and strengthened my connection with ASCO as an organization. As a result of this experience, I hav ebeen able to make greater contributions to the leadership structure of our cancer center and serve a key role in the development of programs that will improve collaboration among our oncology teams. I strongly recommend this course to anyone interested in developing personal leadership skills and increasing their effectiveness within professional organizations.

Register to attend the 2015 Leadership Skills Seminar, March 26-27 at ASCO HQ in Alexandria, VA.


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