VitalsSchool of Medicine

Executive Decision

Graduates from the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Pay It Forward through TTUHSC School of Medicine program, Life Lessons in Leadership
When Jannette Dufour, PhD, needed leadership training, the Hedwig Van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) program offered by the Drexel University College of Medicine was the perfect fit. Dufour, associate director of the Texas Tech University Obesity Research Institute and professor in the TTUHSC Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, was associate dean for research at TTUHSC when she applied for the prestigious ELAM program, which was a feat all in itself. “I think I wrote 16 essays detailing my past career experience, goals and why I was interested in leadership,” she added.
Group of ladies posing together
TTUHSC ELAM alumnae: Jannette Dufour, PhD; Patti Patterson, MD, MPH; Betsy Goebel Jones, EdD; Sharmila Dissanaike, MD; Cynthia Jumper, MD, MPH; and Leslie Shen, PhD

Financial Training

The ELAM program offers an intensive one-year fellowship of leadership training with extensive coaching, networking and mentoring opportunities aimed at expanding the national pool of qualified women candidates for leadership. One component of the program is balancing an operating budget. “The easy thing to do in that situation is to cut basic science and research,” Dufour said. The associate dean for research wasn’t going take the easy road. “Research is the foundation,” she added, and passionately made the group promise they wouldn’t cut the research budget.

The most valuable thing for Dufour in the program was the financial component. As a scientist, she had never had to think about the medical school’s budget. “I now have a firmer understanding on the importance of the clinical side and how much money it brings in for the school,” she said. “It has helped shape my perspective going forward.”

Sharmila Dissanaike, MD, Peter C. Canizaro Chair of Surgery, agreed. “The budgeting portion of the course was intense and quite rigorous, and some of the best instruction came from an accountant who had really good insight into financial leadership.”

Leadership Training

“I knew how to be a good physician, but the ELAM program taught me how to lead physicians,” said Cynthia Jumper, MD, MPH, vice president of TTUHSC Governmental Relations and Managed Care (Resident ’91, Medicine ’88).

The program helps students develop tools to manage and lead teams of people who think differently than you do, Jumper added.

One of the ways this was taught was through pragmatic experience. “We were required to interview leaders from our university,” Dissanaike added. “The objective is to better understand the education system you work for.”


The best part of the experience for Patti Patterson, MD, MPH, (Resident ’83) professor in the School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, was the relationships she built with her cohort. “We were put into groups of learning communities upon acceptance into the program, and I was with some incredibly brilliant women who I still visit with today.”

Networking is not an inherent skill and a lot of times must be learned, Jumper added. “I have no problem meeting people as an experienced physician but I can see how it can be intimidating for new professionals, which is why we provide networking instruction in our course, Life Lessons in Leadership.”

Life Lessons in Leadership

The ELAM alumnae faculty members at TTUHSC put on a local ELAM course called L3 or Life Lessons in Leadership. It’s available to any faculty member in the TTUHSC School of Medicine and provides training for those wishing to advance in their careers.

Before Leslie Shen, PhD, associate dean for research in the School of Medicine and founding director of the TTUHSC Center of Excellence for Integrative Health, attended ELAM, she attended the L3 course.

“L3 provided me with many skills that made me interested in advancing my career,” she added. “I enjoyed networking with colleagues from my own university and feel this is a wonderful resource for female faculty.”

The L3 program, which is offered every two years, has been postponed due to the pandemic. However, they hope to pick back up for the next cycle scheduled for 2024.

“We appreciate the investment that the School of Medicine made for us to attend ELAM and want to provide availability for more faculty to take advantage of these resources through L3,” Dissanaike said. “We look forward to resuming our in-person coursework once it is safe enough to do so.”