From the Society

Understanding people is complex, yet essential for effective leadership

Veteran SHM member Jeffrey Wiese, MD, offers advice for early career hospitalists


Editor’s note: Each month, Society of Hospital Medicine puts the spotlight on some of our most active members who are making substantial contributions to hospital medicine. Log on to for more information on how you can lend your expertise to help SHM improve the care of hospitalized patients.

Jeffrey Wiese, MD, FACP, is an associate chair of the department of medicine and a professor of medicine at Tulane University, New Orleans, as well as a Master of Hospital Medicine within the Society of Hospital Medicine.

Dr. Jeffrey Wiese

This month, The Hospitalist spotlights Jeffrey Wiese, MD, FACP, MHM, senior associate dean for graduate medical education at the Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, director of the Tulane Internal Medicine Program, as well as an associate chair of the department of medicine and a professor of medicine at Tulane University, New Orleans. Dr. Wiese has been a faculty member at SHM’s Leadership Academy for many years, is distinguished as a Master in Hospital Medicine, and has served in various other positions throughout his time as an SHM member.

What are the requirements to become a Master in Hospital Medicine, and how has this designation been beneficial to your career?

I have been an SHM member since the early years (early 2000s, I think), and I became a Master in Hospital Medicine (MHM) in 2013. I see the MHM designation as recognizing accomplishments that have been critical in advancing the field of hospital medicine and SHM as a society.

I would guess that my contributions to the SHM Board, being SHM president, cofounding (with others) the Academic Hospitalist Academy, founding (with others) the Quality Safety Educators Academy, and being the founding chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine’s Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine pathway were probably what led to my induction.

The salient question probably isn’t “How has this designation been beneficial to my career?” but, rather, “How, after receiving the MHM designation, has my career benefited hospital medicine and SHM?” To my mind, there are some awards in life that recognize excellence in the completion of a task. They herald the end of a finite game: a “best research project” award, for example. But then there are a special few recognitions that, while they recognize past contributions, focus more upon the future than the past. They are infinite recognitions, because implicitly, they are recognitions of “promise” as much as achievement. They convey the organization’s trust in, and high expectations for, the recipient. In sum, they are simultaneously an honor and an obligation … an obligation and an expectation that the recipient will continue to do even more. In academic parlance, being “tenured” is a good example; for the Society of Hospital Medicine, the equivalent is the MHM recognition. I have done a lot for SHM, but the MHM designation obligates me to do even more. Honoring that obligation is what I plan to do with my career.

How did you become involved with SHM’s Leadership Academy, and how has the program developed over the years?

I started doing a 1-hour talk when the Mastering Teamwork course started. I did that for a couple of years but, as my career was evolving into higher-level institutional and hospital leadership, there was much more to talk about than I could fit into 1 hour.

The core of my leadership message is based in the “character ethic” (being better than who you are) and not the popular “personality ethic” (looking better than you are). So it’s that … plus all of the leadership mistakes I have made along the way. And that’s a lot of mistakes … enough to fill 9 hours of Mastering Teamwork.

In your opinion, what are some of the main takeaways for those who participate in SHM’s Leadership Academy?

Two of the three core components of great leadership are having a mission and purpose and being sincere. Leadership Academy can’t deliver the first two, so participants do have to come prepared to be trained.

Understanding people is the third core component, and mastering that skill is really complex. It is not something you can do with a clever slogan and a new lapel pin. It comes in many forms: teamwork, communication, networking, dealing with crisis, orchestrating change, etc. But at its core, Leadership Academy is all about training future leaders in how to understand people … and to develop the skills to inspire, motivate, and move their team to greater heights. Because at its core, leadership is about getting people to go places they otherwise didn’t want to go and to do things that they didn’t already want to do. And, to do that, you have to understand people.

As an active SHM member of many years, what advice do you have for members who wish to get more involved?

You have to start somewhere, and you have to see the entry level years as investing in yourself. There will be sacrifice involved, so don’t expect immediate returns on the investment, and the first few years might not be that fun.

Every year, there is a call for committee membership, and you need to get involved in one or more of those committees. Find the most senior hospitalist, who is the most involved in SHM, and tell her that you want to be on an SHM committee, and could she nominate you? If you do not have that luxury, then pay attention at the SHM annual conference. The SHM president-elect is responsible for building out the SHM committee nominees; as president, you are always looking to find enthusiastic people to be on the committees. Receiving emails from enthusiastic members is more welcome than you might think. As soon as that person is announced, find her email and start making the request to be on a committee. Be open to the assignment: Even if it is not your favorite committee, being there is more important than not.

But remember, networking and reputation are “two tailed.” You can improve your reputation by meaningful and consistent participation on a committee (leading to higher and better leadership opportunities), but you can also tarnish it by being assigned to a committee and not doing anything. You do that once, and there is a high probability that you will not be asked back again.

Great strategy, at the end of the day, is always putting yourself in a position with the maximum number of options. The key to personal development strategy is networking. The more people you know, the higher the probability that your email box will light up with the “Hey, do you want to collaborate on this project together?” sort of emails. Attend the annual conferences, attend the SHM Academies (Leadership, Quality and Safety Educators Academy, Academic Hospitalist Academy, etc.). Build genuine relationships with the people you meet there, and the rest will work out just fine.

Ms. Steele is the marketing communications specialist at the Society of Hospital Medicine.

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