CLA Veteran Leaders Broaden View At UNC Hospitals
Release: 10/24/2008

Oct. 24, 2008


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Members of the Carolina Leadership Academy's Veteran Leaders program, which includes captains and team leaders from the Tar Heel athletic squads, recently got a lesson in the post-college application of leadership. The group of nearly 100 student-athletes spent its October meeting at UNC Hospitals, talking with members of the emergency medicine team.

The idea came about after Jeff Janssen, Co-Director of the Carolina Leadership Academy, visited UNC Hospitals' Air Care unit to prepare for a program he delivered to the UNC nursing staff last spring. "Learning about how the Air Care unit and the rest of the hospital staff have to lead effectively in life and death situations made me think this would be a great field trip for the Carolina Leadership Academy," Janssen said. "I wanted our Veteran Leaders to see and hear from some respected professionals about what it takes to lead in crisis situations - and certainly that's what the Air Care unit, physicians, nurses, and surgeons do so well at UNC Hospitals. Obviously our student-athletes do not have lives on the line when they compete, yet they too still must be able to lead effectively under pressure and adversity. I also wanted our leaders to understand that the leadership skills they are learning now through the Carolina Leadership Academy will give them a big advantage as they transition into the work world - and throughout the rest of their lives."

After meeting at Kenan Field House, the group walked up to UNC Hospitals, where they first gathered on the helipad for a look at the Air Care helicopter and an amazing view of campus and Chapel Hill. There, paramedic Bill Mattocks, flight nurse Deanne Edwards and pediatric transport nurse Daniel Cheek spoke with the student-athletes about their roles in transporting patients quickly and safely to and from the hospital.

"The view from on top of the hospital was amazing, and it was really cool to see the helicopter up-close and talk to the people who fly in it," said Brock Baker, a senior on the men's track and cross country teams.

The group then relocated to a hospital auditorium for a question and answer session with cardiothoracic surgeon Brett Sheridan, trauma surgeon Elizabeth Dreesen and emergency medicine physicians James Larson and Abhi Mehrotra, along with Jeff Strickler, Director of Emergency Services at UNC.

"I really enjoyed listening to the surgeons and doctors talk about how they used leadership in their line of work," said Kara Wright, a junior on the gymnastics team. "It was interesting to learn that they actually use many of the same leadership techniques in the operating and emergency rooms as athletes do on the field or court. One of the athletes asked a really great question - she asked how, as doctors, they dealt with failure. In sports, when a team fails, it usually means losing a game or making a bad play, but in medicine, one little mistake can make the difference between life and death. What really stuck with me was how the cardiothoracic surgeon responded to this. He said that how you react to failure and learn from it is just as important as success. All of the speakers reinforced this and added, when faced with great adversity, it's important to take a step back and remember the basics your learned in your training. All of the doctors' comments and suggestions were so relevant to sports, and at the same time, it was great to see leadership in action outside of the sports setting."

"It's interesting that in everything that you do, there is always a leader," said Sanaz Marand, a junior on the women's tennis team. "It all comes down to the same thing: Being able to lead yourself first then others. When things aren't going right for you, you step back and go to the basics."

"It really struck me how each stressed the importance of preparation in dealing with whatever challenges they face as leaders of their medical teams," Baker said. "It may sound obvious, but it really made me realize that to be an effective leader in any situation, you first must be prepared with all the tools necessary to lead, and that's what the CLA tries to equip us with."

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