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TD Magazine Article

A Path to Discovering Leadership

Cultivating a positive patient experience starts with leadership.


Fri Jun 14 2024

A Path to Discovering Leadership

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: 2024 BEST Award Winner, #20

Excellent patient experience helps healthcare providers improve and standardize care quality and boosts their business success, especially as they navigate complex care workflows, new payment models, and emerging technologies. Cultivating a positive patient experience at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center starts with leadership.


"An impactful driver of our patient experience is employee training and development. This takes high priority to maintain a competitive advantage and sustain the pace of our work towards eradicating cancer," says Courtney Holladay, associate vice president of the MD Anderson Cancer Center's Leadership Institute.

Enter LEAD, the institute's curriculum-based program that guides staff along their leadership development path. In 2023, the institute added the Discover track to three levels of its core programming: LEADing Self, LEADing Others, and LEADing Teams.

Each program offers 30-40 hours of online readings and self-paced activities focused on the institution's leadership characteristics and associated competencies, such as social intelligence, emotional intelligence, drive, professionalism, coachability, capacity building, accountability, and knowledge sharing.

Participants also must engage in 10 hours of peer-led mentoring. Called "mentoring circles," each cohort comprises eight to 10 leaders with one facilitator. The facilitator role rotates among participants, and the Leadership Institute team provides discussion questions and agendas for their meetings. Participants submit progress reports after each session, and they must successfully complete a comprehensive knowledge proficiency test after each module.

Tailored to preparing individual contributors for formal leadership roles, LEADing Self Discover entails two modules, with each one spanning six months. By year-end 2023, 172 individuals had completed the program. According to participants, a highlight of the experience is networking and learning from others throughout the organization, with 97 percent saying it created cross-departmental connections.


LEADing Others Discover is targeted for supervisors, managers, and faculty who seek to develop their own leadership style. Of the 122 leaders included in the first cohort, 114 completed the program. Three in four said the program has had a positive impact on their self-confidence as a leader and improved their analytical thinking; 81 percent reported experiencing a boost to their innovative thinking.

For leaders in roles such as department chair, executive director, and clinical medical director, the institute offers LEADing Teams Discover. The program presents a unique opportunity for participants to focus on strategy and critical business issues as well as core principles of character and influence. Pre- and postsurvey differences from the first cohort reveal that participants saw increases in awareness of their leadership values and their ability to develop a vision for themselves as leaders and influence others by creating a shared vision.

According to Holladay, the key purpose of the self-nominated program is to prepare staff for the next level of their careers. It can even give participants the boost they need to move into leadership roles. In fact, the institute incentivizes successful course completion of LEADing Self Discover by awarding graduates one year of supervisory experience for internal positions to help meet experience requirements.

"Rather than waiting to move into leadership roles to receive training, the Discover track makes sure participants are ready for leadership roles when the opportunities present themselves," says Holladay.

View the entire list of 2024 BEST Award winners.


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