By Aine Cryts

When radiologists have business and leadership training—through an MBA or a structured leadership program at their hospital or an organization such as the American College of Radiology (ACR)—that learning helps them participate more fully in governance and leadership opportunities, Geraldine McGinty, MD, FACR, chair of the board of chancellors at ACR, tells AXIS Imaging News.

“Knowing the language of business, having facility with things like reading a balance sheet, understanding some of the legal aspects of business enables to then bring [their] radiology expertise and use it more effectively as a radiology business leader,” she says.

McGinty learned that lesson early in her career, shortly after finishing her medical training. That’s when she took on a role to start an imaging center at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. Subsequently, the imaging center grew into a network of imaging centers with a significant budget and a team. That’s when she decided to pursue an MBA at Columbia University.

She took classes on Fridays, but those two years were still packed with many long days and proved to be stressful. It helped that she was sponsored by Stephen Amis, MD, former chair of the department of radiology at Montefiore. Since then, McGinty has increasingly embraced the role of sponsor and mentor herself. Here’s how she defines both roles: A sponsor spots an opportunity and volunteers the right person for it, while a mentor gives advice.

Why Radiologists Should Embrace Leadership Training

The value of an MBA for radiologists is straight-forward, according to McGinty. The degree provides radiologists with business and leadership training, which prepares them to participate more effectively in governance activities, she adds.

Take, for example, her current role at Weill Cornell Physician Organization, where McGinty reports to the CEO and has developed a strategic data team to aggregate market and internal data to drive an increase in data-driven decision-making. As the lead negotiator for managed care contracts, she’s also responsible for monitoring the performance of those contracts for approximately $700 million in commercial revenue for the organization’s physicians.

“All of those skills, I didn’t learn in medical school,” says McGinty.

Looking back, McGinty says that her MBA was also helpful in her role at Montefiore Medical Center, where she led negotiations with insurance companies. While she worked with a team of lawyers, the health system relied on her to fully understand the financial impact of those contracts.

Still, she insists that an MBA isn’t required. Another route for radiologists is the ACR’s Radiology Leadership Institute, which delivers professional development programming, leadership skills training, and networking opportunities for radiologists who want to advance their careers. The ACR offers online and meetings-based programs for radiologists at all stages of their careers, from resident and fellowship training to mid-career to executive-level.

In addition, health systems develop leadership training in-house. For example, New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she’s a radiologist, has a program called Leadership Education and Development (LEAD), which helps support emerging leaders. Launched in July 2017, LEAD is a partnership between the hospital, Columbia Business School, and Columbia University’s health policy and management faculty. Physicians can apply for acceptance to the 18-month program, which exposes them to topics such as health policy, healthcare payment systems, analytics and managerial decision-making, and social and behavioral science and population health.

Giving Back Through Mentorship

In October 2019, McGinty secured a new role as associate professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “I found that [process] honestly quite difficult, something that’s not necessarily in my wheelhouse,” she tells AXIS. What helped was support and guidance from Elizabeth Arleo, MD, a professor of radiology at the medical school.

It can be difficult to find the time to mentor others. That’s why McGinty sets aside an hour each month for people who reach out to her to ask about her career path. She describes these monthly get-togethers—to which previous attendees can return and participate—as a mentoring workshop where peers also mentor each other.

McGinty realizes that the monthly time slot doesn’t work for everyone. “But I feel like I’m never too busy to have a 15-minute conversation.”

Her advice on mentoring and sponsorship is simple: Make sure you can give these relationships the time they need.

Aine Cryts is a contributing writer for AXIS Imaging News.