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If physician executives don't, who will? (A Reaction).

In 1991, I had the good fortune to attend the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School and spent three months with 145 executives from major industries throughout the world. I expected these individuals to be strict advocates of a bottom line mentality with value for the shareholder above everything. The faculty met that expectation, but it was greatly reassuring that the class frequently took offense with the bottom line orientation and argued in favor of employee, community, and society responsibility over value to the shareholder.

Their views were not much different from those of this physician executive from the not-for-profit health care arena. I left the course with optimism for the future of business in the United States and around the world. If these leaders could have such a humanistic, "spiritual" approach, we had to be okay.

If business leaders can approach their profession with spirituality, shouldn't those of us in health care be able to do so? These articles describe spirituality in a variety of broad ways, but as I read them I cannot help but come away with two messages. First, spirituality demands a commitment to the welfare of our patients, employees, communities, and society in general. Second, and perhaps necessary for the first, we must embrace an open pursuit of peace through God, nature, or our inner soul. My capacity to describe this is far less erudite than the authors of our articles, but I hope my sense comes across. It is important for each of us to continually devote some energy to personal spirituality, as well as to humanistic business practices. It is too easy to regress to a bottom line orientation, especially in times of stress. This is more relevant now than at any other time in my career. The financial pressures on our industry are immense: decreasing reimbursement, rising costs, and more stringent standar ds have had a terrible effect on bottom lines. We daily read of major teaching hospitals reporting losses of staggering proportions.

Our job is to maintain perspective

I suspect that most of us regularly face the pressure of panicky senior managers in the cost cutting, eliminate FTE mode. As physician executives, it is our job to try to help maintain perspective and focus on spirituality. If we don't accept this responsibility, who will? We must continually use our influence to protect patient care, the security of employees, our community benefit mission, and the sanity of our management colleagues.

I hope you all got the same benefit from reading these articles that I did. They were a breath of fresh air, almost like a period of meditation in the middle of a busy day. I was able to reflect on my own pursuit of spirituality and the spiritual mission of my organization. Perhaps I will put them aside and reread them periodically.


This issue of The Physician Executive examines whether there is a place for spirituality in medical management. Why is the intersection of spirituality with business leadership the most published new topic in business school literature and emerging as a favorite subject in management conferences around the world? Is the "s" word something physician executives should even care about? ACPE members John C. Babka, MD, CPE, FACPE, FACP, FACHE, and Barbara LeTourneau, MD, MBA, CPE, FACPE, were invited to read the lead articles with a critical eye and to share their thoughts on them. Here are their responses to how they would apply the information to their organizations. Babka asks, if corporations in other industries can embrace a philosophy that stresses a more humanistic approach, why can't those of us in health care? LeTourneau shares her thoughts on the outcomes of spirituality and how physician executives can create healthier working environments and become key players in helping the organization to serve the community and its members.

John C. Babka, MD, CPE, FACPE, FACP, FACHE, is Vice President of Medical Affairs at Morton Plant Mease Health Care in Clearwater, Florida. He can be reached by calling 727/462-7195 or via email at
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Article Details
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Author:Babka, John C.
Publication:Physician Executive
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
Previous Article:Business leadership as a spiritual discipline. (Reconciling the Inner Self with the Business of Health Care).
Next Article:Outcomes of spirituality. (A Reaction).

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