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Learning to Lead by Following: Part 2

Throughout my time here at Michigan thus far, in addition to learning from the “leaders and best,” what has kept me afloat has been acknowledging the importance of finding experiences in what I personally value and am passionate about. Sure, there are plenty of people doing amazing things in the traditional leadership sense. These individuals are the ones I was envisioning in Part 1 of this post: those who are in a position of power, vocal, and actively seen by the community as leaders.

However, leadership comes in a variety of flavors. The concept of leadership has always captivated me; historically in the athletics realm, and more recently, I’ve enjoyed observing and exploring the various leadership styles in the medical community. One thing I’ve noticed is that leadership is about your attitude, not your position. For instance, there’s a type of leadership that is not as highlighted and coveted as the one most commonly accepted. It portrays a leader who is present, who shows up, who is dependable, who is a team player, who is invested in the cause of the matter and not the title it’s associated with. Still sounds like a leader, right? This form of leadership, known as followership, has become an increasingly popular and recognized type of leadership across many domains. Just as the connotation of “leadership” does not necessarily have to be one of authority and dominance, the implication behind being a “follower” should not be associated with being second-string, unexceptional or noncontributory.

We had a school-sponsored opportunity to try out Escape Room with M1s-M4s as a leadership learning and team-building experience. We successfully escaped together and almost broke the record!

Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times (the inspiration for this blog post) that calls for the need to encourage followership and emphasizes the importance of schools valuing their students’ purposes, passions and drives to create positive impact.

College and medical school have been crucial times for personal and professional growth for me as well as for my classmates. Rather than having us stress under the pressure to accumulate as many leadership roles as possible to boost our candidacy for our next level of training, Cain drives home the idea that the world doesn’t only need leaders, but it needs team players. It needs people who do well and who do good. It needs followers.

At a place like Michigan, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be a follower among my classmates. And, there does not have to be a differentiating line between being a leader and being a follower. However, there needs to be a growing emphasis and recognition of opportunities where leadership does not come in the form of being heard, seen or acknowledged, but instead felt by presence and by purpose. There is so much power behind following personal values and passions. Cain wrote that we need “leaders who are called to service rather than to status.” Fortunately, there are just as many of these sort of individuals at Michigan as there are traditional leaders, and many more who are a mosaic blend of the two. And still, the common quality across my medical school class? Driven students committed to training to provide the best patient care.

Thanks for reading, everyone. It’s time for me to return to the land of the “leaders and best,” both as a leader and a follower. I’ll leave you all with one of my favorite quotes by Viktor Frankl: “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”


Learning to Lead by Following: Part 1

Attending medical school at an institution that prides itself on their “leaders and best,” I am constantly in awe of the incredible individuals with whom I share the Ann Arbor streets, serve on the same clinical team and eat with in the same hospital cafeteria. There is a variety of superstars who walk the hallways of the Michigan Medicine hospitals, whether they be renowned attendings, role model residents or fellow classmates with remarkable past lives that have led them to a place like Michigan.

My classmates and me, last year as new M3s, at an outdoor leadership day!

Being surrounded by the “leaders and best” every day, I have to admit that there have been many times when “imposter syndrome” creeps into my mind. And a few times when it full-on football-defensive-line tackles me, my whole body, my whole mind. Seeing and hearing about the amazing experiences my classmates are achieving and are a part of—whether it’s regarding academics, research, extracurriculars or other domains—there are times of feeling inadequate and thoughts of doubt if I could keep up with such superiority.

Growing up as a competitive athlete, I quickly learned that there will always be others who are bigger, stronger, quicker and better. After coming to medical school, and especially at a top institution such as Michigan, it was not surprising to find a similar experience. I am constantly impressed by the intelligence, integrity and talents of my classmates.

Yet, being in this position does not need to elicit feelings of mediocrity and inadequacy. Rather, why not take advantage of this opportunity of being around such superstars? Embrace the honor of being at the same place. Connect with them and pick their brains to hear their stories, their challenges, their lessons learned. Equip yourself with new insights and skills. Adapt and apply the energy and knowledge of others. Create relationships and build mentorships. That has been my way to embody the “leaders and best.”

One of the many activities that initiated conversations about leadership and teams.

When I first started medical school, research was certainly not a strong suit of mine. I was easily overshadowed by many of my classmates, who were research “gurus” in their past lives, boasting PhD or Master’s degrees, publications and years of experience. Rather than pout in my inferiority or fear that my competitiveness as a candidate for residency would not live up to that of my classmates, I chose to collaborate. I turned to these individuals and asked for guidance. I gained new insights when working together with various colleagues on different projects. I sought out opportunities to evolve this weakness into a strength, such as serving as an editor on the Michigan Journal of Medicine for peer-to-peer, hands-on learning from these experts.

I chose to collaborate. I made the decision to be one of the “leaders and best.”





Creating a Health Care “Dream Team”

Every Wednesday this past winter, I had the chance to meet with my “dream team.” Nope, this was not an intramural sports league but an interprofessional class with students from dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and social work. As part of the “Team Based Clinical Decision Making” course, we learned about each discipline’s education and scope of practice before working through complex patient cases. Although we might not have professional licenses yet, it was a glimpse into the potential of high-functioning health care teams.

Health care is undeniably a team sport, but health care professional students traditionally learn in silos and often don’t work together until years into our education in the clinical setting. Each discipline has evolved largely independently, creating completely separate curricula, schedules and facilities. However, after every class we were left thinking about the value of learning together and from each other.

Michigan Medicine is working to create more interprofessional opportunities through a range of initiatives in education as well as clinical practice. This ranges from interprofessional (IPE) courses like this one, the Center for Interprofessional Education, team rounds, student groups spanning schools, and changes to the medical school curriculum. To allow for interprofessional collaboration, each school has designated Wednesday afternoons as protected time for required IPE courses, electives or other opportunities.

Although it was a huge class with 320+ students across five schools, the team structure made for a much more personal setting. We were divided into five groups and then further divided into individual teams that we worked with all semester. Each group rotated through modules led by faculty from two different disciplines, which created a unique teaching dynamic. The content included crucial topics that often are not allotted adequate time in medical education, including advance directives, the opoid epidemic, and transitions of care.

My team developed a much stronger understanding of the scope of practice of each discipline, and gained a lot of respect for each other and our respective professions. It was also a unique chance to practice my future role as a physician and better understand the skill set that I am expected to bring to the team. Since I was the only first-year student/med school rep on my team, it was also a valuable reminder to recruit help from my colleagues when needed and be honest about my own scope of knowledge.

There is a lot of discussion about the struggles of health care right now, especially fragmentation of care leading to poor outcomes. This is something I’ve been frustrated with in nearly all of my experiences in health care both before and during medical school. It was refreshing to be able to think critically about these problems through this class and be challenged to approach them with a proactive, team effort. As health care professionals of the future, we have some significant challenges to address. However, I think it is becoming clear that this will be best accomplished by thinking beyond the traditional paradigms of education, care models and hierarchy, and creating health care “dream teams.”


200 Years. Forever Valiant.

This month, I’m working as a Family Medicine sub-I (or sub-intern) on the department’s inpatient service. Essentially a sub-I is supposed to act like an intern, except for the fact that someone else (usually the senior resident) has to sign off all of the orders that I place. I’ve now finished my first week on service and am finally (sort of) getting the hang of it. At the very least, I’m starting to remember where things are in MiChart (UM’s electronic medical record). With spending good chunks of my Internal Medicine and Psych rotations at other hospitals, it’s been a little while since I routinely pre-rounded and put in orders.

I’m enjoying my time here and really enjoy working with the team. It’s a smaller group than some: the attending, the senior resident, the family medicine inter, the psych intern, and me. It’s really great to feel like these are my patients instead of the intern’s patients that I’m helping with. And, it further confirms my desire to pursue family medicine because of the broad spectrum of clinical conundrums it entails and the amazing people you meet.

Our day starts at 7 a.m. in the hospital cafeteria where we meet with the night resident for signout to learn what events transpired overnight for our patients and to hear about any new people admitted. Rounds usually begin around 9 a.m. In between we go see our patients and formulate preliminary treatment plans for the day. During rounds, we present our patients to the team and attending, and make modifications to the plan. After rounds, we return to our team room and put in the orders allowing those plans to come to fruition. Our team admits new patients every day, so the day team admits until 5:30 p.m. and signs out to the night resident at 7 p.m.

This month also marks the kickoff of certain events for the U-M bicentennial. Yes, the University of Michigan turns 200 this year. On my own birthday a couple of Saturdays ago, I was lucky to be released from clinical duties early enough to attend the True Blue concert, celebrating notable achievements over the past two years. (While 7 p.m. is the theoretical time we are off duty, you stay until your work is done, which can sometimes be a bit later.) So, I was thrilled to be released in time to attend the concert with my family. My brother, as part of the Michigan Men’s Glee Club, was honored to perform. Other notable appearances were Darren Criss, Andrea Joyce, Jim Harbaugh, and the entire Michigan Marching Band on stage at once for “Varsity and the Victors.” Go Blue!

Doctors of Tomorrow – One Step Closer

“It was my first time sitting in a classroom at the University of Michigan. I realized that these people were not just showing us how to become doctors – they really wanted us to become the doctors of tomorrow.” Theo Chillis recounts his experience in the Doctors of Tomorrow (DoT) program as a freshman at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

Fast forward four years, and Theo is a freshman again – here at the University of Michigan. Theo and his classmates were the first cohort of DoT students to graduate, and as they grew as students and as people – through the rites of passage of summer jobs, drivers’ licenses, and college applications – DoT grew with them.

What is DoT?

DoT was founded in 2012 with the aim to increase diversity among medical students and physicians by inspiring and enabling youth from underrepresented communities to pursue careers in medicine.

Doctors of Tomorrow 9th grade students 2016-17

The 9th grade program has grown into a unique opportunity for both Cass Tech students and their first-year medical student mentors. The summer internship program, started in 2014, provides additional opportunities for students to engage in an 8-week immersive experience with community based organizations in Detroit during the summer following their 9th grade year. This year, seven students will have paid opportunities to work at various organizations in their community, including Artesian Farms, Neighborhood Service Organization, Project Healthy Communities, American Indian Health and Family Services, and an additional research internship this year at the Wayne State School of Medicine The Brain Imaging Research Division (BRAIN).

Quick Reference:
Doctors of Tomorrow (DoT) has three different mentorship programs:

  • DoT: for 9th grade students at Cass Tech
  • DoT Rising: for 10-12th grade students at Cass Tech
  • Dot Succeed: for undergraduates at the University of Michigan

I thought DoT was only for 9th graders?!

For upperclassmen in high school, choosing a path can be difficult among the stresses of college applications, AP exams, and ever-increasing peer influences. The critical need to continue to engage students beyond their freshman year of high school became clear. DoT Rising, launched in 2015, gave students continued mentorship opportunities and exposure to the medical field through after-school clinical skills sessions, as well as leadership opportunities and professional development. Last spring, DoT was proud to see all 15 students from our very first cohort matriculate to universities across the nation. As Wolverines, we were ecstatic that eight of these students chose to attend the University of Michigan!

Mentor undergraduate students, you say? Good luck!

If you’ve ever worked with freshman in college, you’ll know that planned activities and heaps of required events really don’t fly. Still, students in their first year of freedom from their parents’ nest often need older students to look up to and give them the occasional nudge. And who better to advise us how to create an effective mentorship program for college students than a college student herself? DoT is indebted to one exceptional Cass Tech alumnus, Antara Afrin, for her vision and grit in helping to create DoT Succeed, the undergraduate chapter of DoT.

Antara, a graduating senior at UMich, with a proud Dr. Jonathan Finks

Antara often speaks to the role that DoT, and our founder, Dr. Jonathan Finks, have played in her life. She says, “As a first-generation Bangladeshi-American student, I have personally realized how scary undergraduate can be; however, it is so much easier when people like Dr. Finks are supportive of you. I have known Dr. Finks for five years now, and it’s just incredible how much he invests into making sure I am able to pursue the goals I have set for myself.” During her time at Michigan, Antara was able to devote her time and talents back to her alma mater, in mentoring younger students. She chats about a valuable mentoring relationship she shared with Rico, a 12th grade student at Cass, that “was never planned – it just developed.” Rico will be attending the University of Michigan this fall. DoT Succeed, similarly, formed organically in 2016 in response to the need to follow up with our students as they navigated the unfamiliar landscape of the university.

How did the first year go?

New projects have unique challenges, but also provide a unique sense of satisfaction. My classmate, Sarah, and I were given the opportunity to lead DoT Succeed in mid-January, in a time that didn’t coincide with any particular transition in the undergraduate calendar. Additionally, we assumed this role amid responsibilities to coordinate DoT Rising events, the summer internship program, and our previous DoT roles as a Capstone Leader and a mentor. Clearly, we had a lot to juggle as we worked to be strong leaders for our undergraduate students.

DoT Succeed students enjoying a mentorship dinner with Dr. Finks

During the first year of DoT Succeed, we relied heavily on the expertise of our senior medical students, and the experiences of Antara and her peers. DoT Succeed became an opportunity for our undergraduate students to come together with medical students to discuss real-life problems that they face, like stress, time-management, and how to grapple with this buzzword that people use called “networking.” Theo (whose quote we included at the top) says, “Connecting with the medical school students has been impactful for me, because I can ask questions and figure out how the experience of medical school is at the different year levels.” More than an opportunity to commiserate about shared stresses, mentorship sessions have been a way to discuss tangible solutions to our undergraduate students’ most pressing problems over casual dinners.

How are these students giving back to their alma mater?

Theo leading a clinical skills session for DoT Rising students in January 2017

I’m glad you asked! One of the most rewarding parts of DoT Succeed is being able to give back to Cass Tech. With training from their medical student mentors, they have taken the initiative to run after-school sessions for DoT Rising students. In one clinical skills night in January, they provided the Cass Tech high school students an introduction to clinical problem solving – even reading X-Rays and EKGs! This year, our final event will be leading a Saturday visit at the University of Michigan for DoT Rising students and their families. DoT Succeed students have been proactive in planning a campus tour for the group, and their vibrant personalities are sure to make the day amusing for all of us.

Theo and Dr. Finks in March 2017 after hearing the good news that he had been selected as the Undergraduate Director of DoT Succeed!


What’s in the cards for the future?

DoT Succeed has so many opportunities for growth and directions to expand in. For next year, we are looking forward to giving our undergraduate students – like Theo, who we’ve recently selected as our undergraduate leader! – more freedom in tailoring events to their needs. We know they will continue to amaze us, and we hope to continue to foster their growth.  Eventually, we hope to welcome them as students at the University of Michigan Medical School!

How can I get involved?

For incoming students, we encourage you to sign up to be a mentor for our next class of DoT 9th graders! For the rest, you can support our mission financially at!/search?keyword=doctors%20of%20tomorrow – every dollar counts!



Wonderful Alumni!

So excited to match in Family Medicine at McLennan County Family Medicine in Waco, Texas!

With many wonderful electives, a continuity clinic and residency applications, my last year of medical school has definitely flown by! Although the residency application process was challenging at times, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to explore many different programs around the country and meet some wonderful people along the way.

While on the interview trail, I realized that our medical school has a huge alumni network with alumni practicing in every state. I met so many residents and attendings on the interview trail who either went to medical school at Michigan or had trained here for residency.

One alumna, Dr. Karen Delhey, was gracious enough to host me through the alumni hosting program when I was interviewing in Houston. Dr. Delhey is a urologist at the Texas Medical Center. She attended the University of Michigan for her undergraduate degree and medical school, and received her M.D. degree in 1986. She completed her residency in Texas and has lived there ever since. Although she has lived in Texas for many years, she is still a proud Michigan alum. Her Texas license plate is “Go Blue”!

During my visit, not only did she welcome me into her home, she and her husband treated me to a delicious barbecue dinner and breakfast tacos the next morning. I loved chatting with her about what med school was like when she was here and how it has changed. I also got to ask her about what it’s like to live in the Houston area. By the time I arrived in Houston, the residency interview process was getting quite stressful, so it was very inspiring and reassuring to chat with someone who had successfully gone through the residency interview/match process and has been happily practicing for many years.

The alumni hosting program was a great opportunity for me to meet a wonderful alumna from my medical school. I am so grateful for Dr. Delhey and all of our alumni who support us! Thank you so much, Dr. Delhey!


…to Match Day!

From White Coat Ceremony…