What does it take to be a strong leader in the imaging department?

por John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | April 23, 2021
Kernesha Weatherly
From the April 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Kernesha Weatherly’s journey to leadership has its roots, in part, in not being heard as a frontline radiology technologist. That frustration, along with a love for learning, launched her journey to earn her master’s degree in hospital administration/operations and just recently, a Ph.D. in healthcare quality and analytics. She advocates that leaders need self-awareness about themselves and tolerance for different styles, in order to thrive in the diverse space of imaging leadership.

HCB News: Please tell us about your leadership journey.
Kernesha Weatherly: I started as a volunteer in our organization, which led to my going to UAB as an undergraduate student and attending their radiology school. I wanted to be on the front line, taking care of patients. My co-workers and I would have questions about the work process, and I decided early on I wanted to be part of the change, which meant being a leader — you can't just sit around and complain. Thankfully, leadership wasn’t foreign to me — I had been in charge when I worked in the retail sector. Eventually, I wanted to do more. I went from working as a technologist to being the clinical educator for the department. After only eight months, I was offered a management position to help evolve an imaging department. My director at the time said, “Hey, I want you to go into mammography and make changes.” And together, with the physician support, we transformed the mammography into an inclusive breast imaging department. After two years, I got the opportunity to be the director of inpatient imaging services and breast imaging. Throughout that experience, I went on and got my master's and just recently my Ph.D. A lot of what I have learned in those programs has helped me throughout my career. Our senior director recently transitioned to another department, and my colleague and I were granted the position of interim department co-leaders. My trajectory in the past ten years had been amazing and I feel fortunate to be able to enact change a little more in each position that I’ve been in. I think I offer a lot as I’ve moved into leadership positions with hands-on, frontline experience. I can impact change at a whole different level.

HCB News: What are some of the most important skills a leader should model, and is there anything unique to medical imaging?
KW: For any leader, integrity and self-awareness are essential. I can't stress how vital self-awareness is when you're responsible for other people. When a person doesn’t know who they are and who they can be, they go from being an asset to a liability for a department and ultimately, an organization. Self-awareness allows you to identify your weaknesses to make them strengths. Everything we do is based on a delicate balance between perception versus intent — how your peers, colleagues, and superiors perceive you. If you’re not self-aware, it’s a form of tone-deafness and lack of emotional intelligence that can negatively impact change and impede your department's productivity. Which is why I say a leader can make or break your division. For example, when I started working, I would see some of the things other leaders were doing and how it would negatively impact their surroundings. Leaders need to be authentic and present, and that requires self-awareness about weaknesses. I realize leaders are busier now, more than ever, however, something as simple as listening to their staff’s needs can easily be tied to the department’s productivity.

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