The first woman to head the National Institutes of Health says physicians are natural leaders because they possess the characteristics of all great leaders: They get results, inspire people and do what is right.
"I see the practice of medicine, in whatever form, as the highest calling," says U.S. News & World Report columnist Bernadine Healy, M.D.
Healy, who also led the American Red Cross and the Research Institute of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and was dean of the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, delivered a keynote address Wednesday morning to the Medical Group Management Association, meeting this week in Philadelphia.
Healy compares physicians to clergy because they are constantly caring for their patients, even when not present. "It is this ministry, I believe, that sets the business of medicine apart from all others," she says.
And even though healthcare is derided for its inefficiencies and prevalence of medical errors, Healy says it truly is respected by the public, which votes with its dollars.
Healthcare expenditures may have soared from 5% of gross domestic product in the 1950s to nearly 15% of national output today, but Healy argues that medicine is at least three times better than it was half a century ago.
"Our work is just plain popular," Healy says of healthcare professionals. "Americans are, by choice, avid consumers of medicine."
Says Healy, "Despite a lot of bad press, the medical professions still are great ways to spend a life's work."