Chapter 12: The Provost's Office: Creating Support for Emerging Leaders


Chapter 12: The Provost's Office: Creating Support for Emerging Leaders



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Dr. Dmitrovsky explains how he addressed the need to build the leadership of MD Anderson at the department and division levels. He discusses changes to recruiting processes for heads at these levels, stressing that search committees are looking for individuals "who care more about others than themselves" (and notes the challenges involved). Dr. Dmitrovsky explains the leadership support that is provided for new department and division heads, stresses the "huge" commitment of resources that is being made in them.



Publication Date



Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - An Institutional Unit; The Administrator; The Professional at Work; Leadership; Mentoring; Research, Care, and Education; Building/Transforming the Institution; Growth and/or Change; Obstacles, Challenges; Institutional Politics; Controversy; MD Anderson Culture


Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What are your plans for continued management of this sort of change at the institution, both the cultural level, and practical level?

Ethan Dmitrovsky, MD:

Yeah. I think that's a great question, because it's a question that's forward-looking. And also, is a way for me to say something that I haven't had a chance to tell you yet, is that in order to address concerns in the community, leadership does matter. And leadership is not defined, in my mind, as at the executive vice president level solely, or even largely, but really local leadership. And so I'm charged with recruiting all new department chairs and division heads. And so what I've been looking for are academic leaders who care more about others than themselves, who are renowned physicians or accomplished physician scientists, or scientists of great merit in their own rights, but at the same time, have this intangible desire to help others more than themselves. So it's not hard to find a distinguished scientist or clinician, or clinical investigators. It's not easy, but it's not hard. It's not hard to find an emotionally intelligent leader who cares more about others than themselves, but it's really hard to find both in the same person. And that's what I'm looking for, because if you are successful and only time will tell if I'm successful with my colleagues, since this is a team effort, then we will have in place leaders of the tradition of servant leadership, but also scholars of great renown in their own disciplines, who all have a lasting effect in the community. And most department chairs and division heads serve for many, many years, sometimes decades. And if you choose wisely, just think of all the lives that will be touched, the faculty, the staff, the patients, the trainees, the students. And you can amplify the good actions of a good leader. And so that's what I'm striving to do now, at the department chair level, the division head level, at the institute director level. And again, time will tell, and it's for others to decide, not for me, whether there is progress being made. And so that's something that I'm working hard to do.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Are you addressing that issue in any way I mean, as you did in the first instance of responding to faculty feedback that you raised, which is, you know, not only working with that issue with recruitment, but with existing faculty, are you trying to foster that kind of leadership pipeline within the institution?

Ethan Dmitrovsky, MD:

Well, thank you so much for that question, because yes, I am trying to do that. I wanted to emphasize that I don't have any predetermination of whether recruitment should come from within the institution, or from outside. So that's not a variable that enters into the conversation. We're looking for the qualities that I've just described.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

OK. I guess I misunderstood.

Ethan Dmitrovsky, MD:

Yeah. So, I think we have I've not done the analysis, but there's as many folks we've promoted from within as we've recruited from without. And I don't know which group is larger.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

OK. I was just making an irrelevant assumption there, so I apologize.

Ethan Dmitrovsky, MD:

No, but I'm actually going to follow up, because I interpreted your question differently than you have. So every new leader I actually provide through the provost office a personal coach, a mentorship team, and direct access confidential direct access to me and to the physician and chief together whenever we bring in a new leader. And we've been doing this at all division head levels, all department chair levels, and all other leadership levels. And we also make available the faculty leadership academy resources, the course resources, the ongoing conferences that they have which last through the year. And my impression is that these are tools which really help leaders. And I've really not met anyone who is naturally able to lead without any coaching or mentorship, and so I feel that it would be really helpful to make these services available, and so that's what I've been doing. And it does help address so many of the complex issues that cross any academic leader's desk. So that's what we've been doing. So I hope I clarified what I was saying. Yeah.

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Chapter 12: The Provost's Office: Creating Support for Emerging Leaders