Dr. Leonard J. Marcus (KNFP 7), Founding Director, Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Harvard School of Public Health.
This article was originally published in the October 2006 issue of the KFLA Newsletter.
Dr. Leonard ”Lenny” Marcus admits that five years ago he would never have imagined working in the topic that now absorbs much of his energy.
In 1991, as an outgrowth of his KNFP learning plan, Lenny established the Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, which since 1995 has been at the Harvard School of Public Health. There, he teaches courses on negotiation and conflict resolution to students and healthcare professionals. He also established two private entities, one nonprofit and the other for-profit, to provide mediation and conflict resolution services to both patients and healthcare providers.
Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Lenny was the unwitting recipient of a $1 million federal grant to research and provide training regarding bioterrorism preparedness.
”I decided to approach this new assignment as if it were a Kellogg Fellowship project,” he says. ”The fellowship approach was: go out into the field, talk to people, and experience what’s going on. Since the post 9-11 concern regarding international terrorism was so new, it was really the only way to familiarize oneself with what were the threats and what were the leadership issues in building an appropriate response. I delved into bioterrorism preparedness as though it was my ’learning plan.’ The fellowship was a helpful guide to exploring a topic I knew little or nothing about.”
Now, along with addressing policy issues of health reform, including adoption of electronic health records and policy implications of the aging population through his Program for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Lenny also directs disaster and terrorist preparedness through the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative.
States Lenny, ”On matters of emergency preparedness there is a leadership crisis right now in the U.S.” He explains, ”In working closely and observing people in leadership positions, we realized that many of these leaders are good at advocating what’s best for their agency, but are not doing a good job working together and advocating on behalf of the overall objective of national preparedness.”
Lenny and his colleagues coined the term, ”meta-leader,” to describe a leader who can lead across agencies.
In August, Lenny went to Israel at the height of the Hezbollah-Israel war to meet with health, military, and first-responder officials to glean what they’ve learned. He was on the border on the last day before the cease fire was implemented, observing the response as a record number of rockets were falling into the area.
”You have to be there in the middle to understand those moments that you’re preparing for,” he says. ”That’s where you find what works and doesn’t work in leadership during the moment of crisis. We incorporate what we learn into the curriculum on meta-leadership for our work with U.S. government officials.”
Lenny stays committed to his work because, he says, ”We have a very high level of conflict in this world and s we’ve seen in 9-11 people are willing to sacrifice themselves for what they believe in. Alongside this is the mass of ’toys’ that terrorists can get access to, including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, that, if deployed, could change the face of civilization as we know it. Similarly,” he says, ”Mother Nature is sometimes called the worst terrorist of them all. A small sliver of our society needs to be thinking about these worst-case scenarios and providing leadership that can maximize the effectiveness of our response.”