Leadership Training in Graduate Medical Education: Time for a Requirement?

Mark W. True, Irene Folaron, Jeffrey A. Colburn, Jana L. Wardian, Joshua S. Hawley-Molloy, Joshua D. Hartzell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Introduction: The need for all physicians to function as leaders in their various roles is becoming more widely recognized. There are increasing opportunities for physicians at all levels including Graduate Medical Education (GME) to gain leadership skills, but most of these opportunities are only for those interested. Although not an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requirement, some US graduate medical education programs have incorporated leadership training into their curricula. Interestingly, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada adopted the Leader role in its 2015 CanMEDS physician training model and requires leadership training. We sought to understand the value of a leadership training program in residency in our institution. Materials and Methods: Our 2017 pilot leadership training program for senior military internal medicine residents consisted of four one-hour sessions of mini-lectures, self-assessments, case discussions, and small group activities. The themes were: Introduction to Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Teambuilding, and Conflict Management. Participants were given an 18-question survey (14 Likert scale multiple-choice questions and 4 open-ended response questions) to provide feedback about the course. The Brooke Army Medical Center Institutional Review Board approved this project as a Quality Improvement effort. Results: The survey response rate was 48.1% (26 of 54). The majority of respondents (84.6%) agreed the leadership training sessions were helpful and relevant. Following the sessions, 80.8% saw a greater role for physicians to function as leaders. Most (88.4%) agreed that these sessions helped them understand the importance of their roles as leaders, with 80.8% feeling more empowered to be leaders in their areas, 76.9% gaining a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses as leaders, and 80.8% feeling better prepared to meet challenges in the future. After exposure to leadership training, 73.1% indicated a plan to pursue additional leadership development opportunities. All respondents agreed that internists should be able to lead and manage a clinical team, and every respondent agreed that leadership principles should be taught in residency. Conclusions: This pilot project supports the premise that leadership training should be integrated into GME. Initial results suggest training can improve leadership skills and inspire trainees to seek additional leadership education. Moreover, much like the published literature, residents believe they should learn about leadership during residency. While more effort is needed to determine the best approach to deliver and evaluate this content, it appears even small interventions can make a difference. Next steps for this program include developing assessment tools for observation of leadership behaviors during routine GME activities, which would allow for reinforcement of the principles being taught. Additionally, our experience has led our institution to make leadership training a requirement in all of our GME programs, and we look forward to reporting future progress. Finally, an ACGME requirement to incorporate leadership training into GME programs nationwide would prove useful, as doing so would reinforce its importance, accelerate implementation, and expand knowledge of best approaches on a national level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E11-E16
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 12 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • graduate medical education
  • leadership training
  • physician leadership
  • residency


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