ECU medical students selected for NC Medical Society leadership program

Eight students in the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University have been named to the North Carolina Medical Society Kanof Institute of Physician Leadership’s 2024 Future Clinician Leaders College (FCLC).

Noor Baloch, Nolan Davis, Michael Denning, Charles Johnson, Hannah Rayala, Emmalee Todd, Ben Wise and Michael Wright will join students from other colleges and universities across the state who are interested in leadership and professional growth.

“The FCLC program provides us with a unique, structured ability to engage with our future colleagues on community-level projects that address the varied landscape of health, health equity and health care,” Denning said. “Gaining intense leadership training alongside other health professions students will allow me both introspection and outward reflection on my future role, as well as mechanisms to ensuring our patients are excellently and compassionately cared for.”

Prospective students are referred and nominated to the program by faculty, mentors and others at their respective colleges. The 2024 class includes 27 students representing disciplines including medicine and pharmacy from ECU, UNC Chapel Hill and Duke, Campbell, Wake Forest, Western Carolina and Wingate universities in North Carolina, as well as St. Georges University in Grenada.

FCLC is a partnership with North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC) to provide opportunities of leadership in an interprofessional health care environment and networking across institutions. The one-year program is designed to enhance health care experience through advocacy, change-driving and individual leadership skills.

Baloch said she wants to be a leader when it comes to ensuring proper care for her patients.

“I felt that in order to be the best leader I could be, I needed additional training alongside other health care professionals to really understand my role as a physician in a health care team as well as establish how I can best serve my patients in that way,” she said. “Through this program, I am able to understand my own leadership style as well as my faults so that I can work on them and ensure I am self-aware regarding how I lead interactions with my patients.”

The program emphasizes leading in interprofessional health care environments and networking across institutions. The interactive learning format encourages participants to engage with their peers and program leaders, faculty and speakers. They also participate in a project that gives them exposure to some of the major health policy challenges relevant to North Carolina.

“This is an incredible opportunity for these eight students to work with other interprofessional students across the state to develop the skills necessary to be a leader in health care tomorrow,” said Dr. Amanda Higginson, Brody’s associate dean for student affairs. “We know our Brody graduates go on to do amazing things; this wonderful program will further develop these students to both improve the health and well-being of the region, but also to augment the already great training they receive here to prepare them to become physicians who will meet the health care needs of the state, both critical mission goals of the school.”

The students will have hands-on experience cultivating leadership skills including team-leading, communication and career development.

“The purpose is to build leadership that centers on self-awareness and fosters authenticity that allows each student to act in alignment with their core values as a leader, encourage and assess information from different perspectives, and balance transparency,” according to the program website. “With the individual core as a foundation for leadership development, this course prepares students for the leadership journey, allowing the individual to establish a strong sense of purpose and understanding of who they want to be as a leader.”

Todd said the nature of medicine as a “team sport” necessitates the ability to collaborate with other health care professionals at any given time.

“In order to do this, it’s important to understand your own teamwork preferences and leadership style and be able to refine them to better suit your purposes,” they said. “I believe my participation in FCLC is providing me the opportunity to do exactly that, which will hopefully lay the groundwork for not just my own success in residency and beyond, but the success of the health care teams of which I will be part.”

Todd said the unique experience to explore a current health-related policy issue in North Carolina is valuable because it gives students a chance to propose potential solutions.

“So much of what impacts our patients’ health are factors that we can’t necessarily do anything about within a half-hour annual physical — their housing situation; the ease of their transportation to work or school; the accessibility of nutritious food, clean water and green space where they live,” they said. “Working towards policy change is one way that physicians can make an impact on these broader societal factors, and it’s something that I would like to be involved in throughout my career. FCLC is equipping me with the experience and skillset I need to begin to pursue this goal.”