Prior to launching her women’s health practice, Charleston House, in Dallas, TX, Kamilia Tagi Smith, a board-certified Ob-Gyn physician, was working in a private practice setting inside a community-based teaching hospital. Despite co-founding that private practice 12 years prior, Smith knew she wanted to forge a new path. She was looking to “break the mold” and accelerate her career in a less conventional way. She had been considering pursuing an MBA or MPH degree for a couple of years, but the time and financial commitment felt steep.
After hearing Laurie Baedke, director of healthcare leadership programs at Creighton, give a presentation on emotional intelligence, Smith started exploring the Executive Healthcare Fellowship. She quickly decided she’d found what she was looking for. The Fellowship offered a shorter timeframe, and she liked that it covered topics related to both business and healthcare.
Goals for Starting a New Practice
Smith had a vision to design a unique and innovative practice model. She notes, “To find that professional satisfaction, I knew that I needed to manage professional relationships differently, I needed to manage myself differently, and I needed to acquire a new set of skills to grow something that I believed in.”
She wanted to strengthen her understanding of healthcare as a business, saying, “We as physicians need to enhance our skills when it comes to the business of healthcare, and most of us are not given that opportunity early on because we’re geared to get into clinical practice.” On top of that, she was also seeking to bring a new women’s healthcare model to the area, and that would require some out-of-the-box thinking. After talking with Baedke and looking into the program, she knew the Fellowship could help her achieve those goals.
Healthcare Business Insights
Smith entered the Executive Healthcare Fellowship program in January 2020, 6 months after opening her new private practice. In some ways, she might have been putting the cart before the horse in starting the practice first, but in other ways her timing was just right. Though, Smith points out, as a busy working parent in a dual-physician household, the timing is never perfect.
Often, her homework started after the kids had gone to bed and finished prior to her regular clinical hours, but she never saw the extra effort as a hassle or impediment to her entrepreneurship. In fact, the projects she worked on in class turned out to be so applicable to her healthcare business needs that “running a business” and “going to school” often became one effort. She worked through real-world challenges in her coursework with the guidance of experienced faculty.
Smith says the professors offered a “buffet of expertise” and a passion for sharing their wisdom. For example, in March 2020 as the pandemic ramped up, Smith recognized an immediate need to implement telehealth in her practice. One of the faculty members in the March 2020 program module had the experience and knowledge she needed. With his help, she was able to get the necessary processes and technology in place quickly, ramping up to 18 virtual visits a day within a few weeks.
Students Bring Perspective
Smith found the viewpoints of the other members of her cohort to be just as valuable as those of the faculty. Along with a diversity of backgrounds, her peers also brought entirely new ways of thinking and different leadership styles. She notes that the program digs into leadership and behavioral psychology from the get-go, bringing a whole new level of insight into interactions and allowing for an especially rich and fruitful exchange of ideas. Understanding the range of personality types and her reaction to them helped her bolster her self-awareness–a primary goal of the program.
Ultimately, the Fellowship helped Smith in ways she hadn’t even anticipated. She knew it would serve as a valuable foundation, but she says it surpassed her expectations thanks to the faculty and her cohort peers.
And as far as that question of timing? Smith believes physicians are called to be lifelong learners. Stagnation isn’t an option, so while for some, timing may not seem ideal and, “Growth is uncomfortable; it stretches you,” it’s also essential. Smith believes the year she invested in her education will pay dividends throughout the rest of her career.