Leadership for physicians has never been easy, even in normal times, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are very far from normal right now. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has initiated changes at work, home, and to our professional society that we did not foresee. When we think of organizational change, we often reference John Kotter’s1 change management strategy. However, the novel coronavirus has preempted incremental change and transformed it into disruptive change.

This shift from incremental change and controlled messaging to disruptive change is unsettling. Despite the tumult, however, leaders do exert control over their response. For instance, they can celebrate short-term achievements, cultivate the culture, and foster learning and growth.  For the LEAD program, the year was full of disruptive changes, and we have found the teachings of Kotter to hold true with the faculty being able to control the remaining steps in the change process: achievements, culture, and growth.

The 2020-21 ACLGIM LEAD cohort was postponed given the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the 2020 SGIM annual meeting. This break allowed us to focus on our vision, gather data on what we have done, and consider what we can do to improve the program.  Since inception, the goal of the LEAD Program has been to provide structure for leadership training to empower potential leaders equally inclusive of race and gender. Since 2014, a total of 79 academic general internists from 53 institutions have participated in LEAD—they represent the membership of the society and we are contributing to the development of individuals under-represented in leadership in medicine. We celebrate that fact!

Cultivating the culture of LEAD and the greater community of leaders is important to our program. We know how important it is to ensure the curriculum speaks to the diversity of the membership and builds leaders with an equity lens. We are working with the SGIM Health Equity Commission on actionable goals toward operationalizing these important concepts.

Along with the necessity to socially distance and hold meetings virtually, digital communication technology has advanced over the past year. For online learning, the available tools and capabilities have expanded—we are learning from this experience and leveraging advances to improve our program.

The change we have all experienced over the past year has been astounding.  For LEAD, we recognize that technology has taken a needed step forward. Our program is a diverse one that serves many. We recognize that leaders need to be more than unbiased; they need to be anti-biased. This past year gave us the opportunity to work with new platforms and the SGIM Health Equity Commission to effect change towards that goal.


  1. Kotter JP. Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review. No. 73:59-67;1995.



ACLGIM, COVID-19, Health Equity, Leadership, Administration, & Career Planning, Medical Education, Social Determinants of Health

Author Descriptions

Dr. Fang (Michele.Fang@pennmedicine.upenn.edu) is associate professor of medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Lee (Rita.Lee@cuanschutz.edu) is professor of medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, Colorado. Dr. Fitzgerald (afitzg10@jhmi.edu) is assistant professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.