As the Medical Director of University Medical Associates (UMA) at the University of Virginia, I find myself leading a generationally diverse work environment. UMA serves as the continuity practice for all 100 Department of Medicine medical residents who yearn for mentorship and guidance. These are provided by seasoned faculty who are invested in training the exceptional primary care workforce of the future. Understanding the promotion of our future workforce was the overall topic of the 2023 ACLGIM Leon Hess Management Training and Leadership Institute. At that Institute, it was a pleasure to listen to a talk by Dr. Megan Gerhardt on the topic of Gentelligence®.1 Developing and executing a pipeline of the primary care workforce of the future is a task that cannot be generationally facile, and it has made me acutely aware of how focusing on this aspect can truly optimize an academic medicine practice.
Born in 1982, I straddle the line between Millennials and Generation X. As I entered the workforce, social media, high-quality search engines, and smartphones were commonplace. I can relate to our trainees to some extent, as I also entered the workforce during the rise of these technological advancements. However, today’s trainees have grown up with even more advanced digital tools at their disposal. As a result, they possess an unparalleled ability to access information and resources independently. Dr. Gerhardt mentioned that they are skilled at searching for answers and may not necessarily rely on us for knowledge. Instead, they yearn for respect for their thoughts and ideas. How can we provide them with something meaningful? They seek guidance in understanding the meaning and application of information. Recognizing this, I shifted my approach from being a dogmatic provider of knowledge to being a facilitator of meaning. By engaging our trainees in discussions that connect theory to practice, we can empower them to apply their knowledge in meaningful ways.
As the most junior faculty member, applying Gentelligence® to my older colleagues is an important bridge to navigate. Reflecting on my own focus as a millennial leader, I recognize my inclination towards technology and efficiency yet also appreciate independence and delegation as a product of straddling a generational line. Recognizing and valuing the unique contributions each generation brings has allowed me to appreciate the diverse perspectives and tap into the complimentary skills that exist among us.
Dr. Gerhardt highlighted the common threads that unite us: respect, connection, competence, and autonomy. I am now recommitted to addressing each of these needs. To do so effectively, I have learned from Dr. Gerhardt to ask specific questions when leading an intergenerational group of faculty:
- “What are you seeing that I do not see?”
- “When you say that particular thing, what does it mean to you?”
- “How would you approach this?”
These questions foster open dialogue, invite diverse perspectives, and encourage understanding. By embracing the answers to these questions, we can foster a collaborative work environment where everyone feels valued, connected, and empowered. As a millennial leader in academic medicine, I am committed to nurturing generational diversity through the lens of Gentelligence® and hope you are as well. By recognizing and valuing the unique contributions of each generation, fostering open communication, and addressing the shared needs of respect, connection, competence, and autonomy, we can create a harmonious and thriving work environment. Embracing Gentelligence® allows us to tap into the collective wisdom and strengths.
- Gerhardt M, Nachemson-Ekwall J, Fogel B. Gentelligence: The Revolutionary Approach to Leading an Intergenerational Workforce. New York; Rowman & Littlefield Publishers: 2021.
Dr. Callender (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an assistant professor in the Division of General, Geriatric, Palliative & Hospital Medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, VA. He is the Medical Director of University Medical Associates at the University of Virginia.