British Columbia’s deputy minister of health came to UBC’s Robson Square this week to speak to the class of doctors in Sauder’s Physician Leadership Program.

The program, offered by Executive Education at Sauder in collaboration with the UBC Faculty of Medicine, BC Patient Safety & Quality Council and B.C.’s health authorities, teaches leadership and operations strategies to senior physicians to help them more effectively lead the planning, delivery and development of B.C.’s health care system.

The intense 10-day program includes workshops from a range of leaders in health care and business education. In addition to learning about the complex organizational and political structure of the health care system, doctors also learn to be more motivational and self-aware leaders who can effectively implement change.

Deputy Minister Stephen Brown spoke candidly about his own views on how the health system could be improved, discussing barriers to innovation such as a lack of competition, complex power dynamics and a fear of transformational change.

Professor Daniel Skarlicki, Sauder's Edgar F. Kaiser Professor of Organizational Behaviour and one of the academic directors for the program, said it was helpful for the group to hear a government leader speak about the strategy for improving B.C.’s health system.

“The physician leaders in the room are the people who are actually executing strategies in health care every day. So it was a rare opportunity to hear directly from the deputy minister on the province’s vision and goals,” Skarlicki said.

Rob McDermid, a physician taking the course, said the deputy minister’s visit was a great example of how the class brings together a range of people working in health care, and gets them to meet at the same level.

“As doctors, we normally function in a hierarchical structure with multiple layers. This course allows us to break down those layers and communicate on a more horizontal level,” he said. “It helps us understand each other’s perspectives, and find common ground for a shared vision of what health care is, and what it should be.”

Skarlicki and McDermid both praised Brown for his transparent approach and the frankness he used in discussing challenges. “When you see it in a leader, you start emulating that, so it was very effective from a leadership perspective,” Skarlicki said.