Video Courtesy of Jerry Anderson
Dr. Shreni N. Zinzuwadia, a critical care specialist in Newark, NJ, quietly brings her faith into the emergency room every day.
“Whenever I’m resuscitating somebody in a cardiac arrest, I know that it’s not me. They’re either going to survive because God wants them to survive, or they’re not, because that’s just their destiny. I never think it’s me actually saving a life. I go into every single room doing everything I can to help them survive, and then, I know it’s not in my hands. I know it’s in the hands of a higher power,” said Dr. Zinzuwadia, a Christian and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School.
Being a person of faith and a leader in the medical industry can be challenging because the field is traditionally all about science and evidence-based medicine. People don’t talk about faith.
“I think it is frowned upon. We’re in a society that’s Christ-rejecting, so you are going to be the odd man out if you want to bring your faith into your practice. I keep it to myself, and I get a sense of each patient and see where their head is at. If I feel like there’s an opening to share faith than I do.”
Many aspiring healthcare professionals get into the industry because they genuinely want to help people. Some feel called to support underserved urban areas, others assist rural communities. But even the most dedicated professionals are starting to question whether the years of education and training were all worth it given the cut-throat decision-making when it comes to deciding who gets what care and how much is paid for it. On top of that, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that by the year 2020 the U.S. will face a shortage of 91,500 physicians. By the year 2025, that number is expected to climb to 130,600. Facing these daunting figures, it’s more important than ever to encourage Christians who are leaders in the healthcare field to boldly share their ideas in the spirit of transforming the industry to be more Christ-like – or, at the very least, to be more empathetic to people in need of care and those who serve them.
What’s really going on?
So why are doctors leaving what has traditionally been considered a highly respected and desired profession in one of the wealthiest countries in the world? In the article “Physicians aren’t ‘burning out.’ They’re suffering from moral injury,” Drs. Simon Talbot and Wendy Dean report that doctors are caught in the crosshairs between honoring their Hippocratic Oath and making a profit for stakeholders (i.e., hospitals, health care systems, insurers, patients, and doctors), often at the expense of affordable quality care. In their assessment, the need is great for courageous leadership willing to pave the way for physicians to perform their duties without the extra bureaucratic baggage draining the system.
“It’s routine for insurance companies to deny claims and make the hospitals and physicians work doubly and triply hard to get paid for services rendered. It puts us in such a position where we’re not getting paid, and insurance companies, specifically, have just decided they will not pay you what you’re asking for. Whatever you’re charging, they’ll arbitrarily decide they’re not going to pay you that. They’re going to pay you 30 percent of that. And there’s no platform or representative for doctors to fight them,” said Dr. Zinzuwadia.
The billing and insurance claims and coverage complaints are of particular concern to people of color, and African Americans in particular, who aren’t adequately represented in the medical field. In an NBC News article by Dr. Shamard Charles’ titled “The dearth of black men in medicine is worrisome. Here’s why,” Charles explains that it’s crucial for more men like him to enter the field because black doctors are more likely to serve in underserved communities where there are higher rates of chronic disease and incarcerations are rampant. He’s convinced that more black doctors in the healthcare system may establish greater trust in the system and a stronger doctor-patient relationship in troubled neighborhoods.
So how do Christians turn things around and have an impact?
People in positions of power and influence need to encourage and develop Christian business leaders who are biblically and theologically trained. Men and women of this caliber must be able to navigate the complexities of the system while embracing a deep and vibrant faith in Christ in the face of an increasingly Christ-rejecting society. Spirit-filled individuals of this nature will most likely exhibit traits mirroring what is known as transformational and/or servant leadership.
Christians in healthcare can model a positive leadership style by living a life of integrity and working to change beneficial policies. Though there are many, at least two leadership styles have proven effective in influencing job culture — transformational and servant leadership. Numerous scholars, including famed author James MacGregor Burns, affirm the power and influence of transformational leadership, a widely regarded leadership style with the ability to enact impactful social change among individuals and cultures by motivating followers to become leaders.
Another famed servant leader, research scholar, Robert K. Greenleaf, believes that servant leadership is based on the heartfelt desire to serve others. This kind of leader is preoccupied with his follower’s development as a person over the actual job itself. It’s easy to see the two traits modeled in the Lord Jesus Christ and relayed through the centuries to the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The exciting news is that Spirit-filled Christians are empowered to live out these principles practically in positions of authority because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17).
Leonard Mlodinow, author of “Why you need to become an elastic thinker,”expertly captures the essence of what’s demanded of the modern workforce. He writes about the need for contemporary workers to become elastic thinkers or employees who can adapt quickly to change and can think openly about new ideas. This principle bodes well with healthcare industry business leaders who are no less challenged by the call to adapt quickly to uncertain market conditions birthed from emerging technologies. But the question arises, does elastic thinking complement or conflict with Spirit-filled living in Christ? The call is clear for Christians to have a mindset on Christ and a passion for being led by the spiritual principle “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2). Elastic thinking involves a great deal of mental exertion and time that can potentially rob you from experiencing the “peace of Christ that passes all understanding.” Yet, at the same time, it can be beneficial in sharpening your mind to approach problems afresh with a new perspective.
Christian healthcare business leaders have an opportunity to influence and shape the future healthcare system by being the catalyst who shape the culture by personal life example, policy recommendation, and administrative posturing. Healthcare business leaders can also reinvigorate the development of critical relationships between the Bible and theological training with the health profession.
“I think we should all be faith-based. We would all treat each other better, respect each other more. We’re a little more selfless in our interactions with people when we’re faith-based. I just feel like it should permeate everything we do,” said Dr. Zinzuwadia.
Charles, S., MD. (2018, August 22). The Dearth of Black Men in Medicine is Worrisome. Here’s why. Retrieved August 27, 2018,
Fibuch, E., & Ahmed, A. (2015). Physician turnover: A costly problem. Physician Leadership Journal, 2(3), 22-25.
Mlodinow, L. (2018, April 13). Why You Need to Become an “Elastic” Thinker to Succeed in Today’s Working World. August 26, 2018,
Rapaport, L. (2018, August 24). General surgeon shortage growing in U.S. August 26,
Talbot, S. G., & Dean, W. (2018, July 25). Physicians aren’t ‘burning out.’ They’re suffering from moral injury. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
Weichun, Z., Sosik, J. J., Riggio, R. E., & Baiyin, Y. (2012). Relationships between transformational and active transactional leadership and followers’ organizational identification: The role of psychological empowerment. Journal of Behavioral & Applied Management, 13(3), 186-212.
Yang, C. (2014). Does ethical leadership lead to happy workers? A study on the impact of ethical leadership, subjective well-being, and life happiness in the Chinese culture. Journal of Business Ethics, 123(3), 513-525. doi:10.1007/s10551-013-1852-6
Weichun Zhu Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations College of Liberal Arts The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802 Phone: (814) 865-9116 Email: [email protected]
John J. Sosik School of Graduate Professional Studies at Great Valley The Pennsylvania State University 30 East Swedesford Road Malvern, PA 19355 Phone: (610) 648-3254 Email: [email protected]
Ronald E. Riggio Kravis Leadership Institute Claremont McKenna College Claremont, CA 91711 Phone: (909) 607-2997 Email: [email protected]
Baiyin Yang, Department of Human Resources and Organizational Behavior School of Economics and ManagementTsinghua University Beijing, China 100084 Phone: 86-10-6279-6314 Email: [email protected]
James MacGregor Burns, Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership.New York: Harper & Row.
Robert Greenleaf, Greenleaf, R.K. (1977). Greenleaf servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness.Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.