Speaker: Leadership in times of crisis requires personal awareness
DENVER — A leader must first have personal awareness before taking action during a crisis, according to the keynote speaker here at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America annual conference.
“This health crisis has been simmering for decades … certainly COVID-19 uncovered a lot of crises in addition to injustices we saw,” Patrice Harris, MD, MA, cofounder and CEO of eMed and former president of the American Medical Association, said during her presentation. “We could say that [COVID-19 brought to light] the lack of infrastructure in this country.”
Amidst recent medical, social and political upheavals, Harris said leaders and leadership must emerge to ensure the health and safety of all.
She advised attendees, “in an emergency, first take your own pulse.”
This, she said, is a crucial first step in times of crisis, to make sure existing in the moment and being situationally aware are key foundations when attempting to address a problem and seeing an opportunity to lead.
Harris recognized former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, as well as President Joe Biden, as national leaders who took a particular interest in Americans’ mental health and attempted to elevate conversations around it.
She told practitioners to keep in mind three main concepts as they return to work: to renew a focus on their area of expertise; to listen rather than speak; and to continue learning.
To address inequalities in health care access and utilization, she urged attendees to seek out partnerships and allyships among a diverse swath of communities, to “shake out of one’s own bubbles” and increase one’s understanding of other communities, and expand their own sense of community.
Harris added that medical professionals should find different ways in which to advocate and always speak up; say what you need to say to get a point across in a professional but pointed manner; find your authentic voice, stand in it and stand by it.
Good leaders, she said, should always strive to be informed. And those who need to be informed must approach any conversation prepared to deeply discuss matters of race, class and access. In that way, Harris continued, leaders must own their body of knowledge or their lack of it and not simply pass off responsibility to others.
Concluding her remarks, Harris implored audience members to choose an area about which they feel passionate and can make the most impact, and strive to address systematic concerns, so the burden of health care navigation is taken away from the patient and given to practitioners.
“There’s an opportunity here, and I know those of us in this room are not going to miss it. I’ve given you a lot of homework,” Harris said. “Each of us has to find what keeps us going.”