According to Forbes and Fortune writers, though African Americans comprise 14% of the American workforce, only about 0.003% of them hold chief executive positions in Fortune 500 companies. In healthcare administration the absence of minorities is, perhaps, more stark with 91% of executives being non-Hispanic white individuals. Despite male minority executives being such a rarity, on October 22, 2019 at Mayo Clinic many students and employees had the opportunity to interact with one—Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr. is the CEO of University of Florida Health in Jacksonville. He has maintained this position for years while also serving as the Vice-President for Health Affairs and the Dean of the College of Medicine. Remarkably, Dr. Haley also continues to prioritize his emergency medicine practice by setting aside time to teach and see patients at his institution. During a brief lunch session he shared some of his history along with salient advice for others that might be interested in a similarly advanced clinical and/or administrative career. In an effort to soothe any regrets related to missing this event, some highlights from the session are below.
Regarding the role that health organizations such as Mayo Clinic and UF health might play moving forward, it was intriguing to hear Dr. Haley’s discussion of the optimal model being one where hospitals are involved with building communities “from the ground up”; this would ensure that community health is a priority. Factors such as allocating space for bike paths and including venues where people can obtain healthy foods were considerations that Dr. Haley is a part of advocating for. Though to some people these features may appear obviously advantageous for a healthy and sustainable public domain, they are often neglected in urban development plans. By contributing to conversations before construction, healthcare institutions and professionals have the opportunity to make a greater impact. While moving towards holistic approaches to providing individuals with medical care, it seems only fitting that we also adopt holistic approaches to building healthy communities as Dr. Haley indicated.
For trainees interested in an executive role similar to the one he holds, Dr. Haley suggested administrative training and urban development education. According to Haley, the additional education would best equip someone for the day-to-day tasks of leading an organization. Some employers often support career advancing education financially or through flexibility. If the second year medical student who requested this information is similar to me, she learned that company executives often earned administrative degrees at that meeting. Talking to Dr. Haley enlightened early career individuals to various career paths and his comments provided direction for action. Particularly with the attending crowd being primarily women and people of color, attending this lunch session was useful towards advising people from demographics that notoriously lack access to executives.
When asked to leave three pearls of wisdom for the audience Dr. Haley shared the following items: 1) consider what will be your legacy, 2) identify internal and external mentors, and 3) be comfortable with delayed gratification. For me, hearing Dr. Haley starting with a statement promoting self-reflections was exquisitely appropriate because the hurdles that must be overcome to achieve a professionally career sometimes cloak the purpose behind the journey—which for many in healthcare is to serve others. Those that attended the lunch were reminded by someone at the peak of his career that long hours of training is all for a purpose. Dr. Haley’s comments created space for pause and mindfulness (cognitive tools that many of us might want to use more often).
Overall the Lunch & Learn promoted an engaging discussion. The Office for Diversity (OFD) at Mayo Clinic regularly hosts a variety of community members which creates enriching circumstances for Mayo Clinic affiliates. Through the OFDs resourcefulness trainees can interact with people, such as Dr. Leon Haley from UF Health, who are both successful and down to earth. Dr. Haley’s ready responses boasted decades of leadership experience, yet the informal nature of the meeting made him seem approachable. Meetings like these help expand our understanding of who gets to be successful and how. It is always rewarding to be in the audience for an OFD Lunch & Learn.
About the Author: Josiane Joseph is a Haitian-American M.D.-Ph.D. student at Mayo Clinic. She was born in Miami, Florida and earned her B.S. at the University of Florida. During her free time she enjoys movies, writing, attending church, and learning about what makes other individuals unique. Josiane values discussions of meaningful issues and looks forward to sharing diverse views with others.