American Association for Physician Leadership

Professional Capabilities

The Year of Living Dangerously

Peter B. Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, MCCM, FAAPL(Hon)

January 8, 2021


Now essentially a full year — a dangerous year — under strain from a global pandemic, the imposition on routine life continues. Necessarily, individuals, families, organizations, and workforces have all undergone profound change as a result. And how we individually, or collectively, identify with our future direction remains somewhat uncertain.

Sukarno was an Indonesian politician who was the first president of Indonesia, serving from 1945 to 1967. Sukarno is best recognized as the leader of the Indonesian struggle for independence from the Dutch Empire. “The Year of Living Dangerously” was a line Sukarno used for the title of his Indonesian Independence Day speech of 1964. The quote actually refers to a famous Italian phrase, vivere pericolosamente, meaning “to live dangerously.”

Within popular culture, however, the phrase has its origins from an Australian novel that was also transformed into a movie — both winning several artistic merit awards. The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1978 novel by Christopher Koch in which a male Australian journalist, a female British diplomat, and a Chinese-Australian male dwarf interact in Indonesia during the summer and autumn of 1965. The novel was made into a 1982 film under the same title, and Koch became a celebrated Australian author as a result.

Set primarily in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, the story is about a love affair during the overthrow of President Sukarno. It follows a group of foreign correspondents in Jakarta on the eve of an attempted coup by the 30 September Movement in 1965.

Thematically, the novel explores the ways in which Australians began to conceptualize themselves differently from Europeans in the post-World War II era, and the way Eastern religions such as Shintoism and Buddhism offer new ways to approach old problems. In general, the themes in the novel are meant to help illuminate ways in which identity is mediated by other people’s perceptions of an individual, and by that individual’s perception of him- or her self… that there is no right or wrong, and there are no final answers — one of the ideas often raised by Eastern religions. [ )]

Metaphorically, each of us is clarifying our identities individually and within our various relationships right now, as we consider the future for ourselves, our families, and our professional relationships. At times, moving along these pathways can feel dangerous on several levels.

There is our history, which we personally relate to best. There is the paradigm of the lives we lived pre-COVID. There are the personal circumstances that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. There are our reactions and responses, personally and professionally, vis-à-vis the impact of the pandemic. And still, there is the future we must forge as best as possible — for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Necessarily, our paradigms, and even our identities, must continually shift in order for us to achieve success.

This is true for our association as well. The AAPL staff and its leadership team, during this year of living dangerously, have been remarkable in their demonstrated capability to adapt to the times. Equally so, the AAPL Board of Directors has been outstanding in its support and guidance during this past year.

Many of you, members of the AAPL community, have witnessed significant changes to your environments. I extend my personal appreciation and gratitude to everyone as we collectively create a new future in healthcare. For those who have not been as fortunate during this year, AAPL provides support and resources as you redesign your new futures.

Transforming and Heading Into 2021

So where is AAPL headed as 2021 takes hold of us? In terms of how we did our business during this past year of living dangerously, the association has been significantly transforming its own identity to best ensure a successful future:

AAPL Collab Experience — With so much of everyone’s professional energies still directed toward virtual interactions, AAPL has successfully leveraged its technical infrastructure to redesign the delivery of all of its programs, products, and services. This virtual approach is now a seamless strategy for providing high levels of interactivity at the individual and organizational levels in all aspects of AAPL’s offerings. The AAPL Collab Experience continues to improve with further implementation and refinement, along with the always-changing environments.

AAPL Platform and Marketplace — The technical core for the AAPL Collab Experience, the AAPL Platform has been years in the making and has fortuitously become an essential facet of AAPL’s reaction to the pandemic as we rethink the AAPL identity. This platform is multi-dimensional and serves to pull all elements of the AAPL offerings together within a technical work environment that leverages artificial intelligence and other technologically advanced approaches.

Following results from the AAPL Assessment Tool or from routine engagement with the various AAPL offerings, this platform serves as a robust recommendation engine that helps guide participants in their leadership journey, networking endeavors, and career trajectory.

On the immediate horizon is the AAPL Marketplace. This is an extension of our platform strategy and will soon become an industry-leading arena where a multiplicity of vendor services can be identified and sought by individuals or organizations as they create new identity and change. This is another way in which AAPL will help further round out its goal to meet the needs of our constituency to ultimately benefit the industry.

AAPL Leadership Assessment Tool — After many years of working with a variety of psychometric assessment tools, we recently refined and released a new approach. This AAPL Assessment Tool can be considered a means to gain strong insights on leadership skills and aptitudes — again, at the individual or organizational level. Results from the tool help set the stage for how best, in a personalized fashion, to resourcefully interact with AAPL offerings, organizational peers, and other AAPL members.

AAPL Educational Programs — Continually adding new programs and updating long-standing favorites, the AAPL Educational Programs remain competency-based and are now more closely tied to the AAPL Leadership Assessment Tool. They have been refined as well in terms of the industry’s needs for best managing the pandemic’s impacts.

  • Courses and information resources are robustly cross-referenced to one another, with our Platform recommending content from within courses, or alternatively, courses from within information resource-based content. Now teams and individuals can explore a wide array of leadership topics simply and easily.

  • Individual programs can be designed and customized in a more robust fashion as a result of the Assessment Tool and the AAPL Collab Experience.

  • Organizational programs are routinely offered at the organizational level through the AAPL Leadership Solutions (Lx Solutions) initiative and can be tailored to the organization in such fashion that all members of the medical staff have relevant offerings available, not just members of a leadership group. This also includes access to the AAPL Information Resources.

AAPL Certification Programs — AAPL has continued to enhance the AAPL Certified Physician Executive (CPE) credential by expanding its course offerings and refining the highly touted CPE Capstone event. The AAPL Collab Experience is now an essential component of the CPE program.

Similarly, AAPL continues to expand its partnerships with several universities and is widening its offerings of master’s degree programs. Participants in Lx Solutions programs are also able to pursue the CPE credential.

AAPL Professional Wellness Initiative — After several years of development, this initiative continues to be sought and well-received by individuals and organizations of all types. The pandemic, as well as recent increased attention toward social justice, diversity, and inclusion, further solidified the fact that AAPL has always been on the forefront of paying attention to workforce health, wellness, interpersonal respect, diversity, and inclusion. We remain committed to expanding our capabilities and offerings in these areas as AAPL becomes better identified with being a lead association in this regard.

AAPL Information Resources — AAPL has completely rethought its approaches for distributing information and has begun to roll out a multifaceted dissemination strategy that makes the accessibility of all AAPL’s information resources readily available. The spectrum of resources continues to expand, and the social media interactions grow regularly. All this, too, is leveraged best with the AAPL Collab Experience.

AAPL Online Community — Always an essential component of AAPL’s mission and purpose is the growing sense of pride for being engaged within a strong leadership community. Certainly, the pandemic has taught us all how important community is — and AAPL is no different. The AAPL Community continues to grow and expand through a multitude of ways — not the least being tied to the AAPL Platform and Collab Experience. Our community will continue to grow in new ways as our individual and collective identities shift in coming months and years.

I encourage you to have a closer look at these evolving AAPL offerings by logging onto the AAPL Platform and developing your own AAPL Collab Experience as an individual or as an organization. You will be glad you did.

Going Forward

Will AAPL be totally virtual moving forward? The answer is “no, but….” We are closely monitoring the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and will adjust accordingly. As with any community or professional environment, face-to-face interactions are vital and invaluable on a multitude of levels. The optimal timing for live, face-to-face meetings remains unknown. We are committed, however, to providing those meetings in the future, along with our commitment to the AAPL Collab Experience. For most of us, networking and learning from others through impromptu meetings simply cannot be adequately created in a totally virtual environment.

There are nearly 250,000 physicians in the AAPL database who have interacted with our association during its first 45 years. And there are currently just less than a million licensed physicians in the United States. With the AAPL philosophy that all physicians are leaders at some level, in the midst of the ongoing effects from the pandemic, we are reaching out more assertively to those million U.S. physicians in order to help provide them opportunities for creating positive change in healthcare. The spectrum of AAPL programs, products, and services is wonderfully positioned for every type of physician to leverage in their own professional environments as they re-identify themselves following the pandemic.

While I am unable to provide the specific number of physicians in the international arena (more than 9 million), AAPL has members in 40 countries. Similarly, the association continues to engage with the international marketplace by promulgating the benefits of physician leadership. With the impacts of COVID-19 continuing to be felt worldwide, there is a definite upsurge of interest internationally for physician leadership. AAPL is already viewed as a lead organization in this regard, and we will be even more internationally focused in coming months.

A refreshed culture of optimism for healthcare is possible as we all now seek to achieve different levels of identification and redesign of our paradigms as a result of this pandemic. Leading and creating significant change in healthcare is our association’s overall intent — and we have done so successfully in this year of living dangerously.

AAPL focuses on maximizing the potential of physician-led, interprofessional leadership to help create personal and organizational transformation that benefits patient outcomes, improves workforce wellness, and refines the delivery of healthcare internationally.

We must all continue to seek deeper levels of professional development and to recognize ways we can each generate constructive influence at all levels. As physician leaders, let us become more engaged, stay engaged, and help others to become engaged. Creating a broader level of positive transformation in healthcare — and society — is within our reach.

Our patients will appreciate the outcome.

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Peter B. Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, MCCM, FAAPL(Hon)

Peter Angood, MD, is the chief executive officer and president of the American Association for Physician Leadership. Formerly, Dr. Angood was the inaugural chief patient safety officer for The Joint Commission and senior team leader for the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Patient Safety Solutions. He was also senior adviser for patient safety to the National Quality Forum and National Priorities Partnership and the former chief medical officer with the Patient Safety Organization of GE Healthcare.

With his academic trauma surgery practice experience ranging from the McGill University hospital system in Canada to the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Angood completed his formal academic career as a full professor of surgery, anesthesia and emergency medicine. A fellow in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Angood is an author in more than 200 publications and a past president for the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

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For over 45 years.

The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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