How to Blow Up the Model

How to Blow Up the Model

When you’re put on the spot by Jack and Suzy Welch, you don’t get off easy.

Jefferson hosted the Welch’s for two packed conversations about their new book, “The Real-Life MBA.” The book is a richly packed gem of advice from banishing jerks, to building “wow” teams and excited employees to aligning mission, behavior and consequences in a meaningful way.

But in the middle of the first session with students, Suzy Welch turned to me and asked, “Why does it take so long to become a doctor? People are almost 35 before they’re prepared to practice.”

I came up with the best answer I could at the moment. In typical academic medicine fashion…I found someone else to blame! “That’s the traditional path determined by accrediting bodies,” I said. But the Welch’s wouldn’t budge: “Why doesn’t somebody blow that model up?” Suzy Welch asked.

“It’s stupid,” Jack said. “I find this everywhere. Places that are full of luddites.”

Of course, they’re right. Here at Jefferson, Dr. Peter Scoles and Dean Mark Tykocinski are proposing a national model that would move the curriculum from a series of vertical and generic “steps”. Pre-med, pre-clinical, clinical, residency, fellowship, a drawn out non-customized 12-17 year process to a customized continuum that concentrates competencies and knowledge based on what the future physician will actually be doing. If a doctor’s practice is learned mostly in the last two years of residency or fellowship, why not get there quicker?

That was the fun of talking with the Welch’s. At every turn, they’re ready to blow up the model and design a better one. And they have gained significant academic credibility with their “Real Life MBA” through the Welch Management Institute, one that has many more expensive traditional academic MBAs scurrying to replicate.

We live at a time of transformative change in healthcare, an intersection where new platforms for care and new modalities in education meet. As I’ve written often, it’s a time to think of positive disruption, not tinkering. Whatever changes we can make in the selection and education of our students, it is less of a risk than pretending that what worked in the Age of Flexner has any chance of producing physicians of the future. So it is time to bust the myths that science GPA, MCATs and organic chemistry grades will produce empathetic, caring, and communicative physicians; that all students should take the same path to get to very different finish lines; and that health system, patient centered care and leadership competencies are somehow “orphan topics” and not as important as microbiology and biochemistry.

The Welch’s love that change. The advice was nonstop that day. And I’m proud to say Jefferson is a leader in many of the hotspots they talked about.

Suzy Welch: “No matter whether you’re the best or not, you have to have empathy. Choose students based on self awareness and empathy.”

Jack Welch: “You must have an atmosphere where only truth is accepted. Truth creates trust. If you put up with the great doctor who’s a horse’s ass, the whole organization knows they’re a jerk, and you lose all credibility.”

To our credit, Jefferson has researched, taught and modeled empathy for years, far ahead of most health sciences universities.

But the Welch’s had much more advice. Suzy Welch is a journalist and former editor of the Harvard Business Review. Jack Welch is one of America’s legendary CEO’s, feared by slackers, loved by hard chargers, he took GE from a $12 billion company and turned it into one of America’s dominant mega-conglomerates, worth $280 billion. He was dubbed the “CEO of the century” by Fortune magazine.

And yet, despite all those accomplishments, their greatest advice was to have fun. “Find your area of destiny,” Suzy Welch said. “In your area of destiny, work should be joyful. If work’s not fun, something is wrong, because we do it all the time.”

And Jack Welch turned to the students in the audience to offer advice on picking a first job, or a residency: “Listen for culture. What is the dynamic at each place you look at? Will I fit in their culture? And will their culture fit me?” His greatest advice: Listen to everyone, and love everyone.

At Jefferson, as we transform, we will take that advice. We will listen to everyone and we will try to make work fun. That’s good advice and as Jack would say “good business!”