Move Forward

A conversation with Carol R. Bradford, M.D.

Author | Patrick Cliff

Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography

Carol R. Bradford (M.D. 1986, Residency 1992) has spent her entire academic and medical career at the University of Michigan including earning her M.S. in microbiology and immunology. In July, she began the newly created role of executive vice dean for academic affairs. Since 2009, Bradford has served as chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and is currently the Charles J. Krause, M.D., Collegiate Professor of Otolaryngology. Her new position is one of the key leadership roles under a U-M Health System and Medical School reorganization led by Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D. Bradford will be primarily responsible for the educational portion (including faculty affairs) of UMHS' tripartite mission: research, patient care and education.

Read an extended version of this interview, which appeared in our May 2016 newsletter.

What is your approach to leadership?
My approach is to hear all sides of the story. Then, many times, I end up putting everybody in the same room to talk it out. I believe that everybody's opinion really adds value. If you get the broadest input, you'll come up with the best solution most of the time.

How do you avoid the morass of not making a decision?
I agree that that's the challenge. I think that hasty decision-making is to be avoided, because you can make the wrong decisions without proper input. Never making a decision and never executing is probably even worse. You need a timetable by which you make the decision. You have a period of input, you set up the meetings and not everybody may be in full agreement. At least you've had those conversations, and you've garnered what I call "key stakeholder" input. Then you move forward. Every decision you make won't be perfect. A few things you decide to do might not be right, but it's not like it's etched in stone forever. You have to make decisions and move forward.

The Medical School is implementing a new curriculum. Will that implementation continue as you begin your new role?
There is a bold new curriculum that is being implemented, and one of my roles as a leader is to ensure its successful implementation. I think that's really exciting. … Medicine is rapidly changing. If we don't evolve with the rapid change, then the Medical School training will become irrelevant. We're in the information age. It is no longer essential for students to know every piece of information because it is so available. It's at your fingertips anywhere on Earth.

You plan to maintain some of your clinical activities. Why are you continuing in the clinic?
I do head and neck cancer surgery. I've been in practice since 1992. I have a long list of patients who trust me and rely on me for their cancer follow-up and surveillance. … I think it keeps me relevant. I think that you best understand the challenges of the students, the trainees and the providers when you, yourself, are doing the work.

It would be almost impossible for me to give up patient care. I just think it's who I am. I love being a doctor. I love caring for patients and families and training the future providers. I just don't think it's something I could leave.

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