Urology is cited as an attractive specialty due to its mix of office-based and surgical treatments, but beyond this clinical mix lies another opportunity for urologists: the role of physician executive. In this interview, J. Christian Winters, MD, outlines his multiple professional roles, explains how he divides his time between clinical and administrative responsibilities, and offers advice to young urologists seeking a career in leadership. Dr. Winters is vice chancellor for clinical affairs, CEO, and professor and chair of urology at Louisiana State University HealthCare Network, New Orleans.
Dr. Winters was interviewed by Urology Times Editorial Consultant Stephen Y. Nakada, MD, the Uehling Professor and founding chairman of urology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Please discuss your current roles at Louisiana State.
I was appointed to the position of vice chancellor about 3 years ago. I am responsible for coordinating the clinical activities of all the schools and the Health Sciences Center, so I work with the schools of Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Graduate Studies, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health. The School of Medicine is about 80% of my focus, but I facilitate the clinical care activities of all those schools.
During that time, the CEO of the LSU HealthCare Network retired and I became the interim CEO. Eventually, I merged the vice chancellor and CEO positions because of their synergy. So I'm now the CEO of the network, in addition to vice chancellor of clinical affairs. This allows me to not only manage the physician line, but also the operational line as well. I've been in this dual role now for about 2-1/2 years.
Please discuss what you do during an average week.
I'm still practicing urology about 40% of the time. I have a clinic day and an OR day, and the rest of the week is balanced with administrative duties. I don't really have dedicated chair time; I incorporate that in my administrative time, like probably all of us do. I meet with the executive team, and then I have a meeting with the leadership team of the system. Following that, my time is based on the strategies of the system and various clinical needs. I spend most of my time with the operative managers of each clinical site and the senior vice presidents of the system. I also spend time with chairs and section heads of the clinical departments, trying to optimize clinical functions.
What are the key skills or attributes that have made you suitable for this position?
Listening and remembering are the two biggest things. I find that the only way to be able to communicate in the most meaningful way is to communicate with all stakeholders by listening to them with the goal of learning something new. That way, you develop an understanding of their needs and requests. From there, it becomes a lot easier to communicate (even negatively), as you can express things in a way that’s most relevant to them. Also, I find that people become more engaged and collaborative with you when you remember and follow up. Either you can facilitate their requests or provide an alternative that works which achieves their goals.