Shan Parikh (G4)
September 27, 2016

We as aspiring physician-scientists are convinced we will be leaders. This may be true, and many of us may be recruited into a position where we will be charged with leading a large team. However, this does not guarantee that every trainee will succeed in this realm nor will they have adequate leadership training to feel confident in even pursing such a role. Graduate school is often dictated by self-directed completion of focused tasks, and often these tasks are initiated and completed by that individual alone. This does not lend well for providing opportunities to gain experience leading a team. As each laboratory environment offers different opportunities, it is difficult to enforce equal leadership opportunities for all trainees. Whereas some trainees will have the opportunity to lead a small team to carry out his or her work, many others may not have imagined feeling confident enough to do so.

With the increasing discussion of providing leadership exposure here at the Vanderbilt MSTP and nationally, it is clear that there is great importance to developing this mission. The question then becomes: how is the MSTP providing leadership opportunities for all its trainees and are these effective avenues for leadership development? I intend on describing the first, and leave the latter for you to determine.

The MSTP has initiated enhanced leadership exposure to trainees as evidenced by the advent of the leadership workshops which provide protected time for students to participate and learn about effective leadership. Earlier this year, the Vanderbilt MSTP introduced an exciting new endeavor entitled Lunches with Leaders!

Lunches with leaders is an opportunity for students to have safe, uninhibited conversations with institutional leaders from a multitude of positions for which we as MD/PhD trainees one day may be eligible. Trainees meet at the University Club of Nashville where they join a select leader for lunch. The lunches are limited to a small number of participants (3-4) to provide an intimate setting where students have an opportunity to understand that leader’s role within the institution, as well as ask questions which they may otherwise never have the opportunity to ask.

These questions range from personal questions on family/career integration to “how to be an effective leader.” Select lunch goers are often top institution representatives ranging from chairpersons of various departments from both the clinical and science sides, but is as diverse as director of operations. Participating leaders include Gordon Bernard, MD, Bill Stead, MD, Linda Norman, DSN, RN, FAAN, Paul Sternberg, MD, Nicholas Zeppos, JD, Ian Macara, PhD, David Raiford, MD, Stephan Heckers, MD, Charlene Dewey, MD, MEd, FACP, John York, PhD, Todd Giorgio, PhD, John Manning, PhD, MBA, Harold Moses, MD, R. Daniel Beauchamp, MD, FACS, Kim Lomis, MD, Ann Price, MD, Lawrence Marnett, PhD, Andre Churchwell, MD, Corey Slovis, MD, Reed Omary, MD, MS, and Luke Gregory, FACHE.

Students who have previously attended these lunches found them to be enriching and for many spurred consideration of alternative leadership positions which they were previously unaware. In addition, the MSTP has received positive feedback from many of the institutional leaders as well. They have truly enjoyed getting to know our talented students. Lunches with Leaders continues to serve as a fantastic opportunity for students to understand what top leaders at our institution implement for effective leadership. If you are interested in attending, upcoming participants include Amy Fleming, MD, Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Kevin Johnson, MD, MS, Mark Wallace, PhD, Nancy Brown, MD, and Douglas McMahon, PhD. More sessions will be added in the future as well!


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