To attract the talent of doctors, Sanford Health helps doctors to excel as leaders

Sanford Health is an integrated healthcare system headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and, like many healthcare organizations outside the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, struggles to recruit doctors and other healthcare professionals.

But once doctors and others are “exposed to our culture, our health system, our communities, people remain,” according to Luis Garcia, MD, president of Sanford Health. “And people stay for the right reasons, which is to provide excellent patient care in safe and welcoming communities and in practices that are fully supported by a large organization.”

Sanford Health is demonstrating this support with a new leadership development program called Sanford Rises. Dr. Garcia and Heather Spies, MD, medical director of clinical experience at Sanford Health, spoke about the development of leaders internally during a recent episode of “AMA Moving Medicine.”


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Sanford Health’s top priorities are its patients, people and communities, said Dr. Garcia. To provide the best patient care, you need to have qualified medical staff who are committed to their jobs and their wider healthcare system.

He added that, particularly in a doctor-led environment, the people of the healthcare system are his most valuable asset. For this reason, it is vital to take the time to help those doctors develop their leadership skills.

Many people within the Sanford Health system were already taking leadership training on their own, but Dr. Garcia said more was needed.

“We have decided: as an organization, if we say that our people are our most important asset, we should invest in our people and we should be systematic in the way we do it.”

This is how Sanford Rises began.

The program is comprised of a cohort of 25 system rising stars who engage in global leadership and development programs over the course of two years. The program focuses on individual growth, mentoring, and the business aspects of medicine.

Participants must be nominated for the program, which is concluding its first year of the first cohort.

“We want them to be our leaders [who] have already demonstrated exemplary care for their patients, are exemplary colleagues, who can be trusted and truly have their priorities [aligned with] how we want to see things go into our culture in Sanford, “said Dr. Spies.” They’ve already demonstrated that they have the good moral and ethical behavior that we want to make sure it underlies it all.

“It is a foundation of how we care for our patients. It’s a foundation of how we treat ourselves as people, ”she added.

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One feature of the initial cohort that excites Dr. Spies is that there is no common trait among the participants. Some participants have only been practicing for a couple of years, while others have worked in healthcare for over 25 years and are established leaders.

The value of the program, said Dr. Spies, is that participants can focus on their own personal development while also learning from the experiences of others.

“Having this already within that group – that they can teach each other along the way – is priceless,” he said. “There is nothing better than learning from someone else’s experiences and getting that real feedback.”

“AMA Moving Medicine” highlights innovation and emerging issues impacting physicians and public health today. You can watch each episode by subscribing to the AMA’s YouTube channel or the audio-only podcast version, which also includes educational presentations and in-depth discussions.

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