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Leaning into Leadership Development

Posted on April 29, 2024

By Interim Dean Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH

Gina Lovasi headshot

With Summer plans on the horizon and a beautiful array of flowers blooming in Philadelphia, this month I am feeling grateful for events that draw leaders to our area each year, and for programs designed to support leadership development in public health.

This month, I had the opportunity to attend as dean the final presentations and graduation events that concluded the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) program. Based within our own Drexel University College of Medicine, ELAM has ties to our institutional history via the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, which had been the nation’s first degree-granting women’s medical school. The program has expanded over the years to include public health leaders, and the 2023 annual report shares that there were 13 public health or population health school deans who had graduated from the ELAM program, and I am confident this number will continue to rise.

Of course, ELAM is not the only option. A related women’s leadership program with a STEM focus called ELATES (Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science) is also based at Drexel and was modeled on ELAM, and ELATES leadership is within Drexel’s College of Engineering. Specific to public health, the Associated Schools and Programs in Public Health (ASPPH) host a 12-month Academic Public Health Leadership Institute. Drexel also organizes a leadership training program called Advancing Dragon Leadership (open to faculty and staff) which I completed last year and which several leaders from our school have gone through. And there are other unexpected places where aspects of leadership training may be made available – for example there was an offer of executive coaching I learned about for those leading Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded efforts on Transforming Academia for Equity which includes our school as one of 7 recipients across the US.

When I’ve had opportunities to participate in leadership retreats, coaching, or programs, I have had a few surprises. First, I have gone in expecting to be given the definitive strategies and tips, so that I would transform my routines and be more effective. And sometimes there are readings or assessments that prove useful and memorable. I found doing a guided time inventory and commitment inventory especially helpful. However, so much of the value seems to be from time to reflect, get clearer on intentions, and question the practices or patterns that are not working (yet). If my intention is to stay focused on important work, why do I allow myself to get distracted with one more peak at my email or take on too much? It ends up being a journey of openness to new ways of seeing yourself, and taking on with intention the discussions and decisions in your realm. I always picture that leadership training is going to be about performing confidence, and find instead that it is work that benefits from humility, peer-support, and an acceptance that we are all on our way.