truck and moved as much equipment as we could—a lot of computers, monitors, and ultrasound machines, some of which we
rolled up four blocks of 1st Avenue. We all came together to work
as a team. We were able to move into another building, which is
now our home, and set up a whole ultrasound imaging suite within a few days. We had mobile MR trailers up and running within
a week. Because everybody worked as a team, we were able to get
this done. I think everybody really felt that they were important
and valuable. It really brought us all together.
Lexa: Can you share with us some of the things that you’ve
done along the way that have helped you become a better leader?
Recht: I think mentorship is so important. One of the things
that I’ve really appreciated throughout my career is that radiologists are incredibly good mentors and very generous with their
time. I was lucky. I was exposed to some great radiologists and
terrific people who have been mentors throughout my entire career. Bob Grossman was one of my attendings. He’s a great leader, and I chose this job because of him. When I met with him and
heard about his plans for New York University (NYU) Langone
Medical Center, I knew he was going to be successful. To be a
chair in a department with a leader like Grossman and to watch
how he leads, makes decisions, and moves an institution forward
has been a tremendous learning lesson for me.
When Bob became dean, he set up a leadership course where
we met as a group of new chairs. Working with the other chairs,
we shared our problems, the things that were scary to us as new
chairs, the things we found difficult, and our successes. That was
really very useful.
Don Resnick as a mentor was incredible. I spent almost a year
doing an MR fellowship and research in Germany at Siemens.
Don said, “You can come do a fellowship. I’ll teach you bone, but
I need to learn MR, so you have to give me MR lectures.” On a
regular basis, I gave MR lectures and physics lectures and Don
would come to those lectures. A lot of people who were at Don’s
stage in their careers basically thought MR was a skillset that
they’d never learn. Don actually learned it and now is a preeminent MR bone radiologist. When PowerPoint came out, I was invited to be a guest at one of his courses. Don was one of the first
adopters of PowerPoint. He still makes all of his own animations,
which are far more complicated than I can do. I’ve watched Don
continue to learn and continue to be challenged. I would never
expect to hear him say: “I’m recognized as the best and the most
well-known bone radiologist. I can rest on my laurels.” He’s always learning.
When I was looking at chair positions, I called Herb Kressel
even though I hadn’t been in touch with him for several years. I
asked if I could talk with him, and he spent about two hours with
me. He asked me great questions about what I was looking for as
a chair and how I was thinking about it. He gave me suggestions
about what I should read, how I should think, and how to organize priorities. That was really generous of him. My National
Institutes of Health (NIH) grant also materialized because I was
telling Herb about one of the ideas that I had. I wasn’t thinking
about submitting it as an NIH grant. He suggested it. Sure
enough, I submitted it, and I was fortunate enough to get funded.
Road to Leadership continues on p. 16
Jim Thrall was also very influential. He asked me, “Michael,
how long do you think it’s going to take for you to feel comfortable
as a chair in this department?” I said maybe a year or two. He sug-
gested that I give myself more time— 5 to 7 years. He said when he
first went to Massachusetts General Hospital, it was tough. “It was
tough for all of us,” he said. “If there was an election in the first
year, I don’t know that I would have won that election.”
He said that over time, you learn the department and the staff
learns about you and it becomes your department. During some
of the tough times early in my chairmanship, I always remem-
bered that, and it was really very comforting. I was always able to
call Thrall when I had questions. I would ask him, “How would
you deal with it?” It was really a wonderful way of learning. What
was always amazing to me was I would often think I would have
these great new innovative ideas, and I would throw them out to
Jim Thrall and he would say, “You know, that is a great idea. I
tried that 10 years ago, and let me tell you about it.” I’ll always
learn from him.
I think one of the lessons that people have talked to me about,
and it’s a skill that I’m still working on, is the skill of really listening. I want to make sure that everybody knows that they and their
opinions are important. That’s something that I have always
worked on. Sometimes it’s easy to try to go fast or cut somebody
off, but I think it’s really important to give people their time so
they feel valued, heard, and appreciated. It’s a hard skill. It’s not
something that was my best skill when I started. I think I’ve
worked hard at it, but I think I’m always going to be working on
that skillset and, hopefully, getting better at it.
Fessell: I know people learn from leaders like you who talk
about the challenges they have and what they’re working on—
that is very helpful.
Lexa: What’s been another challenging moment for you in
your leadership career since becoming a chair?
Recht: I think probably the hardest thing as a chair that I had
to do—and I’ll never forget the first time I did it—was making the
decision to let a faculty member go. It’s a big responsibility because you realize that what you’re doing really has a significant
effect on people’s lives. It’s a decision that you can’t make lightly.
I remember the first time I had to make that decision. It was very
difficult, I was worried, and people were worried that the person
could potentially take it in a very bad way. I ended up calling the
chair of psychiatry, and saying, “I just need to talk to you a little
bit about this because I have to make this decision. I know this is
the right decision for the department, and in order to move the
department forward I have to do this.”
Road to Leadership continued from p. 12
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.