Ep. 5: Servant leaders make a difference in daily practice

Dr. Craig Uthe shares examples he wants to set for students and colleagues

Episode Transcript

Alan Helgeson (Host): Hello, and welcome to the “Reimagining Rural Health” podcast series, brought to you by Sanford Health. In this series, we explore the challenges facing health care systems across the country from improving access to equitable care, building a sustainable workforce, and discovering innovative ways to deliver high quality, low-cost services in rural and underserved populations. Each episode examines how Sanford Health and other health systems are advancing care for the unique communities they serve.

Today’s topic is a conversation around servant leadership and the difference it makes in the daily practice. For clinicians, our guest is Dr. Craig Uthe, family medicine physician, and Sanford Health enterprise director of clinician professionalism. Our moderator is Dr. Luis Garcia, president of Sanford Clinic.

Dr. Luis Garcia (Moderator): Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Craig Uthe, with an exciting topic, which is servant leadership. And I was just prior to starting this recording, I was having a conversation with Craig about how the last couple of years have been interesting to say the least for clinicians and how we just feel beaten down and devalued, and yet we have the most honorable profession, right? Where we get to use our talents and our gifts to help people in their greatest needs. And we need to continue to show up unlike restaurants and malls that they can close shops or cut down tables. You know, we have a commitment to our patients and we need to continue to show up. And I think our clinicians have done that and have excelled at doing that despite the circumstances. And a lot of that during the pandemic and the post-pandemic era has been leadership. Craig, you and I have had conversations numerous times about one thing is to have a title, and another thing is to have is to be a leader, right? Well, and to be a servant leader.

Dr. Craig Uthe (Guest): Yes. Being a medical doctor, MD, DO, nurse practitioner, PA, that is a title, that’s a formal leadership title. We are looked to as leaders whether we want to or not, and there’s responsibility that goes, goes with that. And when I ask people, why did you decide to become a health care professional? Always in that answer somewhere is, well, I want to help people. Seems like a, you know, very simple answer, but it is, gets to the core of why we go into medicine. And sometimes it’s not easy to remember that if you get beat down through a pandemic or if you’re up all night or through the rigors of being a physician, it’s not always easy to be in that job and to have that title.

Dr. Luis Garcia: You ask people a question, why do you become a physician? That’s a great introductory question for a great conversation. Let me ask you the same question. Why do you choose to become a physician?

Dr. Craig Uthe: Thanks for asking me. Again, it’s that proverbial, I really wanted to help people. I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I went to Augustana College at the time, now Augustana University. I was a camp counselor in high school, in college. I worked at a YMCA camp in high school. And I remember they had the triangle of the body, mind and spirit. And I loved that analogy of the human. And so I wanted to go into profession that would take care of the body, mind, and the spirit.

I grew up in a Christian background. I’m a faith-based person, so the spirit is important to me in a person’s health. And I got to the last two years of college Augustana, but it’s called a four-one-four curriculum. So you have two semesters, and in the middle of that you take one course.

And so in my junior year of college, I shadowed a second-year family practice resident doing community medicine in Sioux Falls in the area. Went down to Keystone Addiction Treatment Center, saw my first delivery of a baby, worked in the clinic, loved it. Senior year I shadowed the three hospital chaplains at the time, Sioux Valley Hospital, now Sanford. And I loved them both.

And I said, you know what? I’m gonna apply to med school once, if I get in, I’m meant to be a physician, and if I don’t, I’m probably gonna go into some kind of a ministry. And my father, my uncle both said, well, Craig, and we think you could probably practice, you could probably minister to people as a physician easier than you could practice medicine as a clergyman. I thought, OK, I agree with that. And I got into med school and the rest is history.

Dr. Luis Garcia: Well, the rest is history. But that history is I think, full of successes and full of achievements, and more importantly, Craig, full of influence. I think that if I were to count the many, many people that you have touched and that you have helped get in a better place, I don’t know that I could. There’s so many of them. And in the medical community, you are recognized and respected.

Talk to me a little bit about that transition. You get into medical school, you become a family doctor, but yet you discover that you have other gifts that some of us wish we could have, you know, which is, once again, of leading, influencing, helping people outside of the clinical work.

Dr. Craig Uthe: Well, I like to remind each other as physicians that it’s a privilege to be a physician. Did I earn the right, I achieved things by getting into med school. You’ve achieved something. I talked to first year medical students, they say, congratulations on getting here. You have achieved something. But never forget what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to have the influence. I love that word influence. I’ve heard that term used as the definition of leadership. There’s a leadership guru named John Maxwell, and he says, leadership is measured by influence, nothing more, nothing less. And it’s that influence that’s the key to being a physician, having that influence.

Dr. Luis Garcia: So sometime in your development, your own individual personal development, you figure out that you’re being influential. Talk to me about that. Young Craig Uthe graduating from medical school and discovering, wow, not only can I be a great clinician and take care of however many patients, but I’m actually, I have other skills that I’m discovering and that I really would love to continue executing.

Dr. Craig Uthe: I realized early on in my career, I’m not sure where it was that intellect is not the only thing that’s needed in medicine. I remember for some reason I was probably about, I was a fourth-year med student and a female OB/GYN physician at Sanford, I looked at her and I thought, how does she know all that stuff? She was probably 40 years old at the time. Everything – how does she know that? Am I ever gonna get to that point and go 10, 15 years later? There was a moment I just caught myself speaking to someone. I can’t remember it was a patient, or if it was like the colleague. I thought to myself, oh my goodness, I have this knowledge base now. We all get that just through the learning.

We’re all forever learners. As physicians, we have altruism, we care about people, we all possess that intellectual curiosity. We love science, we love learning. We’re forever learners. And I remember just thinking, oh my goodness, that intellect is so important. It’s not optional, it’s required, but there’s so much more required. I had Dr. Mary Nettleman, dean of the medical school recently, she asked me one time, Craig, we’d love to bring you on board on our team, and we wanna graduate great physicians at the University of South Dakota. And I said, Mary, I love that. I just have one question. What’s your definition of great physician? And her response to me was, why don’t you go out and find out?

And I’m still looking when I ask groups, and I’ve asked people having breakfast that are retired at Hy-Vee, I’ve asked middle school classrooms, I’ve asked medical people, I’ve asked non-medical people what makes a great physician? And there’s some very similar patterns to the answers. And it’s, well, I want somebody that listens. Compassion, caring, have integrity, good listener, honest, forthright, you know, it goes on and on. And then finally somebody says, knowledge, competency, technical skills. Rarely is competency in the top three statements that people respond.

Dr. Luis Garcia: Isn’t that interesting? But yet you ask our medical professionals, how do we define ourselves? And most of the times it’ll be about achievement. Yes, it’ll be about title, it’ll be about letters behind your name. It’ll be about competencies. Right? But yet, regardless of the specialty, regardless of the condition, patients say, what I love about my physician is that he or she listens to me.

Dr. Craig Uthe: Yes.

Dr. Luis Garcia: That he or she looks at me in the eye. It just humanizes our profession doesn’t it?

Dr. Craig Uthe: There’s the saying, nobody cares what you know until they know that you care. And that’s so true. Even to the point of medical litigation. Evidence shows that physicians, that they get sued. No physician’s perfect; there’s always gonna be the chance of making a mistake. People are forgiving. If their physician cares for them and they’re doing the best they can do, it’s unlikely they will be sued by the patient. The physicians that get sued are those that are seen to be uncaring, detached, and not showing interest in the patient.

Dr. Luis Garcia: You know, it’s interesting you say that. When I teach surgical residents, I always tell them, you know, when you have a complication is not the time to look the other way. It is time to get the closest to your patient, not because of fear of getting sued or not, it’s just the right thing to do. Right?

I mean, absolutely it’s our responsibility, but to that point, the clinicians that are sued are the ones that turn their head out their head away. Right? You know, Craig, you’re talking a little bit about influence and about being a leader and about creating a difference for patients and what matters and what doesn’t matter to patient or a member of the community as we define the great physician. But what about a great colleague and a great role model? Do you think you can apply those same concepts?

Dr. Craig Uthe: Oh, absolutely. You know, servant leadership – I, for me, the definition of servant leadership is, first servant is we’re in a service industry, medicine, my job is to serve others. So it’s not about me. I don’t care what job you’re in. I don’t care what line of work a person does. We are self, each people, I mean, we’re very concerned about ourselves and we should be. But when it comes to being a physician, the privilege we have is people put their lives in our hands and we have a responsibility and an obligation in that then to do what’s best for them. My job is not to be liked, although I want patients to like me. My job is to develop the respect, the trust that’s involved in that type of work. And that just takes time and it takes giving. How do you give of yourself in that situation?

And from a very pragmatic standpoint, in the patient room, I developed a very, very simple internal guide that helped me. And I’d say, OK, does this person need an invitation from me? Do they need to be encouraged or do I need to challenge them in their health right now? If I’m telling them what to do, I’m losing. Because nobody likes to be told what to do. They like to discover what they want to do and then own it and do it. And that’s the leadership part of the definition. It’s again, it’s having influence. That’s how you measure it. Well, how do I influence someone? Well, I do it by showing that I care about them and I want them to be successful. I want them to achieve the things that they want in their life. Sounds so simple. Yet, it is so difficult to carry out.

Dr. Luis Garcia: That’s one of the reasons why you were such a respected, or you are such a respected family doctor. Right. But now leadership inside the medical community. Right? We as physicians don’t like to accept that we need help. We don’t like to accept that we can be vulnerable, that we can be human beings. So as a leader, colleague of other younger partners or even older partners that could be struggling, tell me about that. How do you navigate a relationship where there might be egos involved, where inherently we don’t accept weakness as physicians? We don’t like to get help because we’re used to help people not to be helped. So navigate me through those.

Dr. Craig Uthe: Let’s start with our strengths. Again, I’ll meet with medical students, I’ll meet with physicians, and I’ll say, I know a few things about you. Number one is you’re intelligent. Well, be, again, be thankful for that. Be grateful. Not everybody has the mental capacity to be a physician. You do. And, accept that for what that is. OK?

I also know that you’re probably very competitive. Perseverance is probably required as much as intelligence to be able to get to med school and then get through med school. So I love, love your perseverance.

Also, there’s a good chance you’re quite perfectionistic and you’re quite competitive. And the problem with perfectionism and competition is the person who might be the one you’re the hardest on is the person that looks at you in the mirror in the morning. So what makes you really good is also what could make you very vulnerable.

And so that’s where self-care trumps everything. If you can’t take care of yourself, you’re not gonna be able to sustain care for others. And so the irony and the twist of servant leadership is you can only serve others if you take care of yourself first. So some people get into the servant line and end up getting trampled over, become a doormat. That’s very unhealthy. And again, when we deal with individuals, we will find that that does happen. And it’s because of the perfectionistic, it’s the competition. But again, it’s that person that sees them in the mirror in the morning, and I say, that person that’s talking to you in the morning, when you look in them in the mirror, you need to kick them out of the house. You wouldn’t let anybody do that to you or to anybody you love. So why does it happen to yourself?

Why do you let that happen? And I find that is very helpful for people. It’s kind of sometimes I’ll even see somebody relax their shoulders in a sense of, oh my goodness, I never thought of that before. I’m harder on myself than anybody else. And just that realization – I’m not perfect, I don’t need to be perfect – is a huge awareness that can be very helpful for, well, not just for physicians. That’s what patients too would find, that patients would have that same type of experience and trying to help them to understand that, do the best you can. That’s all you can do is to give your best.

Dr. Luis Garcia: Yeah. And, God, did the last couple of years showed us that, right? That we come with a high level of intellect and a high degree of commitment. And yet there’s a day that comes where we don’t know what are we facing, right? And we don’t have all the answers. And I always say that what initially came as a clinical dilemma became very fast a people’s problem. A people’s challenge, yes. Of how you navigate patients, clinicians, nurses, society, politicians, you name it, through a very, very uncertain times. And how that influential servant leadership really, really served its purpose.

Servant leadership, right? Some people might look at it like, well, is the guy that does everything for me? And I can be, I can treat that person as a doormat. You mentioned the word doormat and that’s not what servant leadership is. So clarify that for me.

Dr. Craig Uthe: Well, servant leadership, first and foremost, is being grounded in who you are and knowing what you stand for, why you’re living the life you live. What do you value in your life? What are your non-negotiables? We need to know who we are first to in order to be able to take care of someone else. And so that’s that foundation. That’s the roots that everybody needs to have. And then I call the emotional part of our lives, the mid-brain, that’s kind of the pleasure centers of our brain, the dopaminergic centers of our brain. We tend to behave in ways that are more on that emotional side. And we don’t bring our thought process to the prefrontal cortex, reason it out. We often make decisions just by your emotions. And so it’s so important as physicians to know what you stand for because our job is to give, give, give, give.

And that’s not always easy to do. And so I’ll catch myself with patients at home with my family, and I have to sit down and think, OK, I have this, this knowledge base, I have this awareness of what illness is, what’s important in people’s lives, what’s really truly important. And unfortunately, the world wants to tell us you deserve this, you deserve that. And they tend to be things that are maybe not healthy for us. And so it’s, OK, I gotta bring this back. And what really is important to a person in their life? What really is that? How can I help them see that so they can live their life in a very intentional way? And do it in a way that you’re serving others, that it’s not about me.

Dr. Luis Garcia: You bring a very interesting point and is, as a leader, servant leader, you are here to help people. You’re here to who get the best out of them. You want your best people at your, at their best and, and get the best out of them. That’s a good leader, right?

But you also talk about boundaries and you also talk about moments in which perhaps the answer is not what the other party is expecting to get. Help me understand how Craig, you, with the best experience that you have in leadership, how do you navigate those instances where the other person needs to hear bad news or needs to hear not what they want to hear, but yet you need to empower them to change?

Dr. Craig Uthe: Well, that’s where our professionalism needs to come out. And our experience, I think, needs to play into this. I do a lot of work with addiction. I do a lot of work with pain, and it’s very difficult to eliminate pain and suffering in a person’s life. That’s what we wanna do. But how can I also reach out to them and help them accept that and live with that in that type of setting? That’s a very difficult walk to walk because I may be misinterpreted as the physician in that kind of setting. Yet that news needs to be heard. How can I help you live with pain that is not treatable? How can I help you get through grief when there’s a loss of something in your health, whatever it might be, or a loved one. And I find that to be sometimes a difficult conversation because I don’t want to be disliked and I don’t want to be misinterpreted.

So how do I walk that difficult journey with them? That’s not an easy one to do. I find what I’ve experienced is if you have compassion and you really care about them, the patient senses that and you hope they come to an understanding and to an agreement and will learn about that. Sometimes it’s effective, sometimes it’s not. That’s the difficult journey I find that we have in medicine and some of those uncertainties that we have. And that just happens to be the patient population I see right now working in a chronic pain clinic. And so that’s such a different setting than a family practice clinic where it’s mostly to feel good. People tell you how wonderful you are and it’s easier cuz you’re talking about diabetes, hypertension, things like that. It’s been a great experience to be involved in the addiction world because it contrasts the other practice I had so much. It gives me clarity into that, boy, this isn’t about me feeling good, it’s about the patient understanding. They’re going through a difficult journey and I wanna walk that with them being honest, saying, I don’t necessarily have an answer.

Dr. Luis Garcia: So how do you take that home, Craig? And this is very interesting. How do you take that home? Because based on our definition of success, when you do not, and this is when I saying our definition, it’s our internal definition that we always have to be perfect. That we always have to solve a problem. That we – so as a physician or as a leader, how do you cope with that circumstance where there’s only so much you can do, you cannot solve the problem and not taking it as a personal failure, as a professional failure?

Dr. Craig Uthe: I’ll answer from the personal standpoint is again, my upbringing was very faith-based. And so for me, from the perspective of Christianity, I live in this world, not of this world. I believe that there’s something much greater after we live this life than we have right now. So that’s the perspective I come in. I mean, this life is preparing me for something greater than that. So I just, I have hope. Hope is my number one core value.

Now my job is not necessarily to take my own feelings and my own beliefs and push it on someone else. That’s not what I wanna do. But I take great comfort in the hope that I have in that. And that’s, I always, I think, have had this sense of hope. I call it the Holy Spirit inside of a person, whatever religions call that spirit filled piece that I wanna portray that in the work that I do.

So even though this world is tough, I want that to be lived as full as it can be. Not meaning it’s gonna always be happy, but I want it to be fulfilling. So I want that patient to live that life as full as they can. That’s why walking that journey with patients who have a terminal diagnosis of cancer, I didn’t want to give them this sort of happy optimism that is not real. I wanted to find out where they put all their marbles, you know, what was most important to them in their world? Is it their family? Is it a faith? And then I wanted to take what they feel is most valuable to them and nurture that. And you can find hope.

Two of the great privileges I had in my 25 years of my regular family practice was getting to deliver a thousand babies. I got a chance to do that. I delivered a baby of a baby, you know, Elton John’s Circle of Life song, whatever you wanna say.

But I also had the privilege of being present in the death at the moment of death of about a dozen patients. And that is a real special experience. I will never forget those moments. Those were privileges. And I found them to be not despairing. I found them to be very intimate. And in that very rewarding both for the patient and for me to be able to experience that with families.

Dr. Luis Garcia: I think you brought topics of clinical relevance, topics of spirituality, topics of leadership, and I think that reflects how complex and positively complex your life has been. Talk to me a little bit about the work that you are doing right now inside Sanford for leadership and how are you interacting with the new generations?

And I gotta say Craig has been instrumental for us in Sanford to develop and implement the professional practice support program, which is a program that helps our clinicians at any stage of their career that need any kind of leadership help or if they’re dealing with challenges to bring really people like Craig and a team that he has developed of internal coaches. And then you have also a phenomenal program that – thank you for inviting me to participate – which is medical students that are looking into that aspect of leadership that you can develop. But a lot of that comes inherently with the individual, right? So talk to me about that.

Dr. Craig Uthe: Well, I think it comes back to that question that Mary Nettleman asked me years ago. “As you know, Craig, we wanna make great physicians, well we want great physicians at Sanford.” And when I left my family practice panel five years ago, that was a difficult thing to do. I had my kindergarten teacher, you know, some, you know, cousins, things like that, that we’re no longer gonna be under my care. And I do, I really wanna give that up to do something else.

Well, when somebody sees something in you, I always wanna listen to that. You know, maybe there’s, maybe it’s time for me to do a change again if I’m gonna be a servant leader. It’s not about Craig Uthe feeling good about patients, telling him how great he is. It’s about doing something that’s gonna make people better. And so what a great quote unquote new patient population than having physicians, med students, you know, all these talented, gifted, caring people.

What I love best about medicine, Luis, hands down is we all have that seed of altruism in our profession. There has not been one person I haven’t worked with in Sanford who doesn’t genuinely say I’m in medicine because I care about people, don’t care. And I look for that seed. I just, I look for that and I try to, if physicians are burned out, they may have lost that focus. And I try to help find that first. Cause that’s burnout. To me, the definition of burnout is when you lost your meaning of why you went into medicine. And I get that once in a while, I’ll get a, I’ll get a stare look when we go to do coach, I’m going time out, no coaching. Let’s get you some help. I don’t think you’re well. Let’s get you well. And once you’re well, then we’ll do the coaching.

And once coaching, I think coaching is going to become a very popular thing in the future. It’s already kind of a craze, I guess right now is what I would call it. But there is some definite value that can be had in that. I always think of the professional tennis players, the Williams sisters, Nadal and Federer, those guys, they all have coaches. And they’re the best in the world. So why would I not want a coach to help me along?

And we could call it a mentor, we can call an advisor, we can call it a coach, whoever it is. But to have that collegial support for each other. When you can have that psychological safety that Sanford offered a resource that, hey, this is about you and your well-being, this is confidential between you and your coach. To create that psychologically safe space is incredibly valuable because now you get colleagues one on one being able to, to really, really be authentic, vulnerable. And that’s where real growth begins in being that great physician.

Dr. Luis Garcia: You talk about an internal coaching program that our physicians, that you have developed to the point of becoming coaches. Yes. And now they’re helping other peers. Help me understand. Why does it have to be a clinician? Why not somebody from the car industry that comes in and coach?

Dr. Craig Uthe: Right. Well, there, there’s something that, there’s value in having been in the same shoes as the other person. I’ve had the same experiences. So working with medical students, working with residents, and working with physicians, when you are one of them, you have a bond. There is a bond. We have Luis, because you and I are physicians. It’s something that has value in it and it gives us an insight into that.

Again, it has to do with influence. Well, who’s gonna be, who’s gonna be one that’s gonna influence you? It’s gonna be someone that’s walked through the same doors that you have, has had the same experience as you have had maybe in different ways, but we can relate and then take it to the Sanford organization to be able to go through the same cultural experiences in the same organization. That gives you an additional insight that’s very helpful.

I believe honesty is absolutely imperative there. And I’ll say, you know, if there’s things you don’t like about the organization, let me know. If they’re the things that you like about the organization, let us know. Because we wanna take those themes that we hear from everybody to make the organization better. And so there’s internal coaching. There’s external coaching. I think they both can be valuable.

The internal coaching program we have at Sanford, I like because we have identified people who are interested in becoming coaches, people that have a skill set in being coaches. And then we’ve just found a couple of tools that we have found very valuable. One being the Hogan assessment, which is a personality assessment. It’s a tool that helps us identify our own strengths and our own challenges. And by actually being able to walk through that with a person who is certified in assessment coaching, we’ve found that has been very valuable for those who have participated in that program.

Dr. Luis Garcia: I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a couple of your coaches or the members of your coaching team, and they speak not only about the influence that they’re having on others and helping them find their best, but how that interaction fulfills them and allows them to grow as well. Not only as coaches, but as individuals.

Dr. Craig Uthe: One of the things I love about being a physician is the title of physician. One of the things I abhor about being a physician is the title of physician. At the end of the day, I’m still Craig Uthe. And taking that title off actually provides some freedoms for me. And so when you get into that coaching, you talk person to person as well as physician to physician. I have found that to be extremely valuable. Being able to say, OK, who is that person along with that physician? And that just provides another dimension that leads to building strength and stamina, I find. And so I always talk to my co-coach and say, I just hope that the person I’m coaching learns as much as I do today because I’m learning something every single time I have a coaching session.

Dr. Luis Garcia: So what’s the most difficult person to coach?

Dr. Craig Uthe: That’s a great question. The most difficult person to coach is a person who has a different value system than yours. Because it’s not my job to push my values onto someone. And so I have to be very aware if this person has a value that’s opposite of what I value. My job is not to push my values onto someone. My job is to help somebody be successful in what they’re trying to achieve. And so that’s very important. And so the most difficult person to coach then is that person where I have to be very, very self-conscious to not be bringing my own personal values into that work.

Dr. Luis Garcia: And not necessarily means that the success would be less. Is that just you as a coach need to be aware of that difference? Absolutely. You know, you mentioned a few people that have been influential in your life and in your own journey, but who is the person that has influenced Craig Uthe the most, to get Craig Uthe to be who you are right now?

Dr. Craig Uthe: Oh, I, you know, I, I probably have five, six or seven different individuals I could say. There’s a book written by the title of Soul Survivor, S-O-U-L survivor, Philip Yncey wrote it, Y-N-C-E-Y. And he took 13 people of influence in his life and they included people that he had not met, like Martin Luther King Jr. And Leo Tolstoy I believe. But then there was also people that he had met and walked alongside. So like C. Everett Koop was a surgeon general at one time. He had met him, he hung out with him. Is that book actually as a text for different programs? There is a theologian by the name of Charles Swindoll, he’s on the radio. Chuck Swindoll. I was a third-year med student and I would say I was struggling at that time, probably the nadir of my medical career was as a third-year med student.

I was single. I was out in the Black Hills in the wintertime. And I remember listening to Chuck Swindoll on the radio at night. He was a pastor and just had a radio show. And I just found that to be very comforting and inspiring for me. So I’ve actually met him. He is, he lives down in Texas since I went to service one time.

My father has been a great influence. My mother’s been a great influence. I just lost my high school basketball coach, just passed away last week. And so he, I think, gosh, what a great mentor. High school music teacher was a great influence for me. And, and just, I’m always having people influence me all the time. I’m always just watching people’s characteristics. You know, Dr. Luis Garcia, what do I love about Dr. Luis Garcia?

Dr. Luis Garcia: No, don’t, don’t say that. <Laugh> Make, I’m sure that list is short, so don’t.

Dr. Craig Uthe: But again, there are those traits, you know, again, it’s –

Dr. Luis Garcia: No, I understand.

Dr. Craig Uthe: It’s the core values that I have that I’ve seen in other people. And again, there are a number of people, and I could have named another 5, 7, 8, 10 people that have an influence on my life. Some who I’ve met and some of whom I have not met.

Dr. Luis Garcia: So, so let me flip the question. OK. Who has been a person that you go like, I do not want to be like that person and don’t gimme names. Give me characteristics of – yeah, you know, who is that person? I go like, I will never be like that person.

Dr. Craig Uthe: Yeah. And I wish I could. There were physicians in my residency that I remember thinking when I’d call him at two o’clock in the morning or I needed their assistance or I reached out, or I just would see them demonstrating either narcissistic behaviors that were very self-indulging or were derailing in an anger mode that was very destructive. And I remember finding myself saying, oh, I’m just, if they only knew how disappointed I was in them, they wouldn’t do that. Maybe <laugh>.

And so as this disappointment of somebody who I respected from a quality standpoint, but when it came to them being real people and caring for others, I was just disappointed. I thought, you don’t realize you’re actually influencing me as much as someone does from a positive way on just how not to be. I thank that person for that.

Now I’ve never, I never told them that I would be critical in some ways, in some kind of a specific faculty person. I’d be critical in, in the, in the evaluation form that I had. But seeing that kind of behavior when she was just so destructive and so harmful, I just call it being disappointed, you know, a person of that kind of authority and influence. It’s just so sad to see that have that negative influence on me at least.

Dr. Luis Garcia: So a good person, yeah, could have a bad influence or a positive influence and then develop personality traits based on that influence. So you teach medical students all the time, Craig, and I’m not talking about medicine. You teach them leadership. Yes. You teach them how to be productive citizens in this world. What do you tell young developing leaders about what you should be, what you should not be?

Dr. Craig Uthe: When it comes to medical students, residents, I always still start with what do you believe in? You know, so why did you go into medicine and what are your values? OK, know what they are, know what they are. That’s what you stand firm on. And then name ’em. Is it compassion? Is it humility? Is it kindness? Is it authenticity? Is it accountability? And then actually ask yourself, what does that literally look like? What does that look like? If you were to see it and say, you know what, that person is accountable. I love accountability, I wanna hang out with accountability. And then use that as your model. Now, the intelligence, the knowledge, the technical skills, they will come. Why are you here in med school? Yeah.

Now you’re gonna spend 80, 90% of your, 95% of your focus on the knowledge piece. I get it. It’s a requirement. It’s not an option. But always keep within your eyesight, within your vision, within your peripheral vision, all the emotional intelligence pieces, because that is the piece that will define the quality of your work as a physician. It’s all those other things, and you’ll get a chance to see it. So just know what you believe in.

And if kindness is your top core value of yours and you see kindness, look at it, study it, what does that look like? Cuz then once you see that, you will start doing that yourself. And for me, what is the epitome of well-being is when somebody comes up to you and says, wow, Dr. Garcia, you are the kindest person I know. And if that’s your number one core value, kindness, you’re going, that was just a grand slam home run I just hit. That’s what I live for. I’m not gonna tell people that, but that’s my goals. I wanna live that in a serving fashion to live those values. So I really search for that. You just have to know what your core is. And then, and everybody’s core is different. And I’ll get that, “Well, what do you think?” And I go, well, it’s not what I think. It’s what you think that makes all the difference.

Dr. Luis Garcia: And I think just in the last couple of minutes, you pretty much described what servant leadership is about and why are you so good at that? Craig, any closing thoughts? This has been a phenomenal conversation, Craig, and thank you for, you know, sharing your insight and your values. Well, thank you and your values and your knowledge and, but any closing thoughts?

Dr. Craig Uthe: Self-care is still the most important thing in being a servant leader. You have to take care of yourself in that and in that journey, maybe the most difficult thing to do, and to me define servant leadership, is when you can in your life, get to a point where you can provide forgiveness to others. We didn’t really talk about forgiveness, but it starts with self-care and it ends with being able to forgive others for things that maybe seem unforgivable.

Sometimes coaching gets to that point in a journey. And I do find that in any kind of a leadership course that I kind of evaluate, I always look for a piece on forgiveness because it is one of the more complicated, more difficult things as human beings to really address and to really walk through and in a mature fashion, be able to deal with that. So I’ll end it with that. Start with self-care and with forgiveness.

Dr. Luis Garcia: Well, Craig, once again you know, every time I sit down and have a conversation with you about life and about leadership, I always come out enriched. And it is a privilege for me to spend time with you. And you mentioned about, you mentioned something about people influencing your life that perhaps you have met or you have not met. And I gotta tell you, those that know you and have met you, agree with me, that their life automatically gets enriched. And if you are listening this podcast and you have not met Craig Uthe, I wish that you could because your life would be equally enriched. Craig. It’s a privilege and an honor. Thank you very much.

Dr. Craig Uthe: Well, thank you. You’re very kind, Luis. Thanks.

Alan Helgeson: You’ve been listening to “Reimagining Rural Health,” a podcast series brought to you by Sanford Health. Hear more episodes in this series or other Sanford Health series on Apple, Spotify, and news.sanfordhealth.org. For Sanford Health News, I’m Alan Helgeson and thank you for listening.

Learn more

Posted In Corporate Services & Administration, Leadership in Health Care, News, People & Culture, Physicians and APPs