By Perdita Henry
Leaders aren’t born, they are made. Good leaders know how to listen, they know how to communicate, they practice what they preach, and they know how to encourage their team members to utilize their unique talents. They also know how sharing their values through storytelling can inspire others to join their mission. The American Academy of Family Physicians, Family Medicine for America’s Health, and Primary Care Progress recognize the importance of leadership training, which is why they joined forces to create the Primary Care Leadership Collaborative.
“Building on the unique strengths of each of the partner organizations, this yearlong learning collaborative will provide structured teaching, coaching and support to enable teams of Family Medicine Interest Group participants to have significant impact on the state of primary care delivery and education at their local institutions and in their communities,” the PCLC stated in a frequently asked questions document distributed to participants.
FMIG participants from around the country applied to participate in the inaugural year of PCLC. Those who were accepted prepared to attend the first PCLC meeting held during AAFP’s National Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Justin Fu, an MS3 and Vice President of Baylor College of Medicine’s FMIG, was one of those students ready to get down to business. “We got to meet all the other teams participating in PCLC and we got a crash course in relational leadership,” Fu says. “It was an intense two-day training session on how to tell our story and how to recruit others into learning about our mission. It was a great way to learn about a different style of leadership that I hadn’t been aware of.”
Once the teams returned to their respective campuses and settled in with their new tools, they began the process of identifying primary care education challenges and health inequalities facing their community. After identifying a subject to focus their attention on, they identified stakeholders on campus and sent out a charter stating their mission. “PCLC let us customize the project for our community,” Fu says. “Every community has different needs and at Baylor, one of the needs we identified early on was that a lot of the medical students weren’t exposed to many primary care experiences or longitudinal experiences due to some of the curricular changes.”
Now that the team has a direction and cause to rally everyone around, they are looking to take their next big step; convening the community. “We hope to engage our stakeholders and bring everyone into the same space, so we can identify a shared mission,” Fu says. “We want to see if this primary care longitudinal track is feasible and see how the different stakeholders can buy into the project.”
The buy-in of stakeholders is an important component to the PCLC project and is precisely why students were trained on relational leadership. “We tell stories all the time to our friends and our family members, but we never tell stories to explain what our values are,” Fu says. “You can tell a story that illustrates your values. Often it’s more powerful to tell a story that illustrates your values rather than just explaining what they are.” Convening the community will be a test of sorts for the Baylor team because that is where they will get to put their newly acquired skills into practice.
The students participating in the program are diving deep to figure out how to bring sustainable change to their current and future communities. “Learning these skills builds a nice blueprint on how to develop a project that has several stakeholders,” Fu says. “Once I leave Baylor and PCLC, I will take these skills and use them assess the needs of a community and to create a project that fulfills those needs. I look forward to taking what I’ve learned to any community projects I take on in the future.”