The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) houses the nation's only federal medical school, the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine. A key aspect of the curriculum at USU is leadership education as graduates go on to serve the Department of Defense through a variety of senior positions in the military. We surveyed a specific group of USU graduates who have achieved the rank of General or Admiral ("flag officers") to enhance our understanding of successful leadership for military physicians and to gain an understanding of how USU might shape its curriculum in the future.
We sent an Internet-based survey to 13 flag officer graduates. The first section of the survey contained items from the multifactor leadership questionnaire-6S, a questionnaire with evidence of reliability and validity for evaluating leadership styles. The second section of the survey contained open-ended questions addressing key characteristics of an effective leader in the Military Health System, experiences that prepared them for leadership, USU's role in leadership positions, and advice for USU for better educating future leaders. The second section of the survey was coded using the constant comparative method.
Eight flag officers (63%) responded to the survey. They all scored highly on transformational leadership style. Qualitative themes reached saturation for each open-ended question. The flag officers identified characteristics consistent with published literature from other fields regarding effective leadership. They endorsed USU's role in achieving their leadership positions and suggested areas for improvement.
Characteristics of effective leadership (transformational leadership style) identified by the flag officers surveyed in this study are consistent with the literature from other fields. These finding have important implications for leadership education at USU and potentially other institutions. The results also provide additional data to support the notion that USU is meeting its societal obligation to educate future leaders in military medicine.
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