What you'll learn

  • Increased understanding of the responsibilities and tasks of leaders in complex institutions

  • Broader appreciation of the challenges and changes occurring in academic medical centers and the implications for their own institution and service or area of responsibility

  • New perspectives on issues they face currently and on those which arise in the future

  • Knowledge of relevant concepts and techniques in several key management disciplines

  • New methods to analyze problems and an enhanced capacity to identify the critical questions

  • Greater effectiveness as unit and institutional leaders in formulating and implementing initiatives and managing change

Course description

Academic health centers in the United States are experiencing unprecedented disruption and change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, institutions need physicians in leadership who have the skills and experience to lead in complex and ever-changing environments.

For over forty years Harvard has conducted intensive two-week executive development programs designed specifically to enhance the leadership and management skills that have become even more vital in today’s health care climate. Leadership Development for Physicians in Academic Health Centers is designed to serve a wide array of physician leaders. It convenes medical directors and chiefs of divisions from academic health centers together with an interdisciplinary faculty team for two weeks of intensive and systematic study of the critical leadership and management issues faced by physicians in administrative positions and academic health centers.


The curriculum is organized around the following interrelated courses taught by a faculty experienced in executive education for physicians and other key decision-makers in the health system:

  • Competitive Strategy
  • Financial Analysis
  • Operations Management
  • Organizational Issues
  • Conflict Resolution and Negotiation
  • Leadership
  • Health Care Policy

A carefully integrated curriculum permits participants to examine fundamental leadership and managerial issues from the perspective of several disciplines. The overriding purpose for learning concepts, techniques and skills in any of the management disciplines in this program is to understand their managerial use and limitations.

Teaching Methods

The principal method of instruction in the program is the case method, a technique pioneered and refined at the Harvard Business School. Most of the cases present actual problem situations familiar to physicians in administrative positions at academic health centers.

The case method confronts the participant with an actual management problem, halted at a point where decisions must be made, and empowers the participant to choose a course of action.

Participants go through a three-step study process. First, participants study each case independently. Then they meet in small discussion groups to test their individual analysis against those of their peers. Lastly, the entire class discusses the case, with the professor as a catalyst and guide. The professor points out considerations the class has overlooked; elicits from participants the lessons of experience; pursues each line of investigation to its conclusion; and finally, summarizes the discussion and draws out the major lessons it has taught.

Assigned readings and guest lecturers supplement and augment the use of cases. In addition, an important part of the learning process occurs during the informal exchange of insights and experience among participants and between participants and faculty.

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