Road to Leadership continues on p. 13
University of Pennsylvania with some of the true luminaries in
the field. I was sure that I knew exactly how and what needed to
be done. After a couple of weeks in my first faculty position, one
of the techs pulled me aside and very nicely said, “I just wanted
to let you know that before you got here, we actually knew what
we were doing.” That was a lesson that I always remember and
appreciate. I tried to learn to not come in and say, “Boy, this is
how we need to do things,” but to really try to spend some time
learning about the people and the culture before making any
changes or major decisions.
I approach my career kind of like a house. When you start, you
get a “starter house.” Typically, you then upgrade to a larger house,
or you add rooms to the house. In a career, you start with a certain
skill set, but you always want to add skills, like different rooms to
that starter house, so that the house and your career stay fresh. I
think I’ve been able to do that in my career. One of the goals I have
for people in the department, as part of our mentorship program, is
to make sure people are always looking to grow and develop new
skills so things don’t become static or boring.
Four years ago we had Superstorm Sandy. Right after the
storm, all of our hospitals were closed. Our outpatient workload
decreased. The question was: “What do we do with all of our
staff?” We decided to give people time off to learn new skills.
There were people who wanted to learn PET/CT so we said,
“Great—you can have a month to learn PE T/C T.”
Fessell: I’m glad you brought up Sandy because I was going
to ask you about that and, in particular, leadership lessons. It was
a huge unexpected event that was dropped in your lap—what
was that like for you as a leader?
Recht: It was unexpected. I went to bed around 11:30 p.m. that
night. I was not in the city but in Westchester. I checked in with my
head of facilities and he said they were fine. Then I was awakened
very early the next morning to be told that we were under 14 feet
of sea water. We lost four MR machines, CTs, and a lot of equipment. No electricity, no heat. It was a very scary moment.
Through a series of cellphone calls, we mobilized our team.
That weekend, just a few days after the storm, we had more than
60 people who gathered at the hospital. Literally, we rented a
By David P. Fessell
Professor of Radiology
University of Michigan
Faculty Lead, Leadership
UM Medical School
The Road to Leadership
A Limited Series
With Michael Recht
By Frank J. Lexa
Chair of Radiology
New York University
Langone Medical Center
Adjunct Professor of Marketing
Spain and East Asia
Global Consulting Practicum
The Wharton School
As the field of radiology continues to evolve, it’s imperative that we continue to train tomorrow’s leaders. In this se- ries, David P. Fessell and Frank J. Lexa interview luminary leaders in radiology to capture the essence of how each
crafted and then traveled the road to chairmanship. These discussions focus on overcoming specific leadership challenges.
The goal is to spark discussion, inspire learning, and support
present and future leaders in our rapidly changing field.
Michael Recht, chairman of the radiology department at New
York University Langone Medical Center, New York, is featured
in this in-depth interview. He’s well known throughout the nation’s radiology community as a brilliant leader, innovator, and
radiologist. In this piece, he shares challenges and highlights of
his career, including an impromptu team effort to save hospital
equipment in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Lexa: Please tell us what it was like on day one of being the
chair—what led you to that role, how did you feel that day, and
what you were thinking?
Recht: It was exciting. It was something that I was looking
forward to but with a little bit of fear because it was something
new. I was introducing myself to a whole new group of people that
I hadn’t met for any real amount of time. I think what was especially daunting for me was that I was taking over a department
where the former chair, the dean, was now my boss. Anything I
did differently was going to be looked at not only by all the people
in the department but also by him.
When I first came out of fellowship, I learned what I thought
was an important lesson. I did an interventional fellowship at the