SUNY Clinical Leadership Academy Sessions Underway

Published October 18, 2021

story by dirk hoffman

Twelve Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences physicians have been selected to participate in the first SUNY Clinical Leadership Academy.


The program — initiated by the SUNY Academic & Innovative Leadership (SAIL) Institute — is intended for mid-career physicians working in an academic medical setting who are aspiring to — or are new to — leadership positions.

“By actively engaging in this intensive academy, physicians will develop the knowledge and skills needed to effectively lead their academic medical centers,” says Carolyn J. Mattiske, director of the SUNY SAIL Institute. 

“Physicians are often selected for senior leadership positions based on clinical expertise,” she adds. “No matter the setting, these expanded roles require knowledge of critical management skills and leadership practices, which are not typically part of physician training.”

Sessions Offered Live Online During Evenings

The SUNY Clinical Leadership Academy is a seven-month (from June to January) cohort experience that includes an applied learning project component.

Nominations were considered by a selection committee with representation from all of the SUNY academic medical centers.

The participants engage with a mentor as part of the program and sessions are offered live online during the evening hours.

In addition to the three hours of live training monthly, participants are tasked with take-home assignments in between sessions.

As part of the learning experience, each participant is expected to develop a plan to lead the implementation or development of an initiative, project or sub-project on his or her campus. The participants present their project/action plan as part of the capstone/graduation event. 

‘Enlightening’ to Learn From Colleagues

Jeffrey J. Brewer, MD

Jeffrey J. Brewer, MD, clinical associate professor of surgery, has been involved with leadership training through both the Department of Surgery and the American College of Surgeons, so he entered the SUNY Clinical Leadership Academy with some experience in the area.

“I was hoping to broaden my knowledge of leadership to include academia,” he says. “As one can imagine, some of the attributes of a surgical leader may not be as welcome in an academic setting and surgical leaders are less common in those settings. Broadening my understanding of team building, bias and methods of improving diversity were all motivations for me to participate in the course.”

Brewer says the academy is designed around leaders from across the SUNY spectrum, as well as some from industry, relaying some of the experiences and attributes they have employed throughout their careers.

“There are some small group discussions with other participants which are enlightening and fruitful to glean how a different specialty would deal with issues that arise,” he notes.

Enhancing Surgery Faculty-Student Interaction

Brewer’s active learning project is focused on increasing faculty participation with medical student teaching and his faculty mentor is Steven D. Schwaitzberg, MD, professor and chair of surgery.

“As surgeons, much of our interactions occur in the operating room, which can be somewhat limited,” he says. “Our services are often large with multiple residents and medical students, so the one-on-one connection of an apprenticeship model is not often possible.”

“To enhance faculty-student interaction by creating alternative environments is helpful to both the student and the faculty member, especially in regards to academic career development,” Brewer adds. “I would also like to extend the reach of the surgery faculty into the preclinical years.”

Using Feedback to Elevate Leadership Skills

Melissa L. Rayhill, MD

Melissa L. Rayhill, MD, clinical assistant professor of neurology, and director of the adult neurology residency program, says she is seeking “to elevate my leadership skills to help my transition from early to mid-career, and to improve my performance as a residency program director and department leader.”

“It's been a wonderful experience! They have utilized 360 feedback and they have given me self-assessment tools so I can play up my strengths, but also be more aware of my personal biases and challenges,” she says. “With this awareness, it has helped me to interact with others of all different personality types to recognize how we can work together more effectively.”

Rayhill is working on an active learning project that involves creating a mentorship program designed to support young women in the university community. Her faculty mentor is Nicholas J. Silvestri, MD, clinical associate professor of neurology.

Six Departments Represented Among Class

Other Jacobs School physicians participating in the SUNY Clinical Leadership Academy are: