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Evert Verhagen, PhD, Jonathan Finnoff, MD and Armando Vidal, MD Discuss the Importance of Leadership on a Sports Medicine Team

Injury Prevention Symposium keynote speaker Verhagen joins USOPC Medical Director Finnoff and orthopaedic surgeon Vidal from The Steadman Clinic in “Fireside Chat”

VAIL/COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. – A pair of “Fireside Chats” are the newest additions to the 6th Annual Injury Prevention Symposium, jointly hosted by Steadman Philippon Research Institute (SPRI) and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC). The event, now in its third year as a completely virtual presentation and delivered live to physicians, scientists, athletic trainers and other health practitioners around the globe, began its two-day run Wednesday morning (April 27) and featured the first of two panel discussions moderated by Will Adams, Associate Director, Sports Medicine Research at the USOPC.

Wednesday’s “Fireside Chat” centered on the topic of the importance of leadership on a sports medicine team. The acclaimed panel included Evert Verhagen, PhD, who opened the symposium earlier in the day as the keynote speaker. Joining Verhagen were Jonathan Finnoff, DO, the USOPC Chief Medical Officer (CMO), and Armando Vidal, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at The Steadman Clinic.

Finnoff, who recently returned from meetings in Europe with other National Olympic Committee leaders, shared his thoughts on his mindset as the CMO and leader at the USOPC.

“These are the questions that I ask myself as I self-reflect,” said Finnoff. “What are my personal strengths? What should I be focusing on? What are the areas where I need to affect change? Developing your own vision, developing your own purpose, your leadership statement, your core values, regularly reflecting on those and revising them over time, making sure that they're in alignment with your organization's and your own department’s vision and purpose. I think those are the really important things to providing good leadership.”

“I like the term that Dr. John Feagin, often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Sports Medicine,’ used when he referred to these people,” said Dr. Vidal. “Dr. Feagin called them servant leaders because it really resonates with what Dr. Finnoff just said. Dr. Feagin’s definition of leadership was doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. It wasn't necessarily about the classic definitions of influencing or guiding or all the other definitions that come up about leadership. It was very simply put—right thing, right time, right reason. I love that idea of a servant leader.”

Dr. Verhagen added one more trait to the preferred list of qualities for a good leader.

“I think one characteristic that needs to be added to what Jon and Armando have mentioned is to be present,” said Verhagen. “The moment you're not present anymore, things tend to go their own way. Even though everything is structured and likely all following your own principles, you tend to become a manager and not a leader when you return to the task at hand. You really need to be present. You need to show your face. You need to place trust and confidence into your people by being there and helping them make the right decision. This sets apart a good leader from a good manager. To be honest, you can learn management from books or the processes, but leadership is your own personality that you put into the mix.”

All three panelists also shared their experiences with mentors during the early phases of their medical careers. Dr. Verhagen noted that there were two different types of mentors for him—the formal mentors and the informal ones.

“You should not disregard the benefits of an informal mentorship, where there's just people who you either look up to or are in the position to set your examples,” explained Verhagen. “Just by observing them, talking with them and engaging with them, you can learn a lot as well. I would say maybe even more so than with a formal mentorship. Informal mentorship is more organic and therefore more open to learning from examples in a real, non-prescribed setting.”

What makes a good leadership team, particularly in the world of sports medicine?

“You really need people to fill different roles within the team,” said Verhagen. “Someone needs to be selfless. Someone needs to be open. Someone needs to want to grow themselves and make themselves a strong addition to your team. But you also need someone to have that critical reflection. Someone that does not always walk with you on the same page, but is often there to pull your sleeve and say, ‘Hey, have you thought this carefully through?’”

For further information, contact Lynda Sampson, VP External Affairs (lsampson@sprivail.org, 970/479-1563)

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