Dr. Daniel Friedland, 2019 Palliative Care Symposium Keynote, Speaks About His Concept of Conscious Leadership

Internationally recognized leadership and resiliency expert Daniel Friedland, MD, can trace his journey as a leader back to his days as a medical student at the University of California San Francisco, where his passion and purpose was shaped by a painful experience of stress, self-doubt, and burnout.

At a dark point in his studies, overwhelmed by stress and fear, the young Friedland sought counseling, embarrassed that in an academic environment filled with the best and brightest, it seemed he alone was struggling. He quickly learned the truth.

“If you want to be able to lead well in the world, the first place we need to know how to lead is (to) lead well inside ourselves. Fundamentally, how do we navigate stress, uncertainty, and self-doubt to be able to focus on what really matters?”

Daniel Friedland, MD, founder and CEO of SuperSmart Health

“I said to my counselor, ‘I feel like such a loser – I’m the only person going through this,’ and my counselor said, ‘Well, don’t you know that more than half your class is in counseling right now?’” Friedland recalls. “It was a complete revelation.”

Empowered, Friedland stopped trying to mask his vulnerability, freeing up the intellectual and emotional energy he needed to thrive. Soon, he was helping the entire medical school do the same.

“I became insatiably curious around how we navigate stress, uncertainty, and self-doubt so we can focus on what really matters most,” Friedland said. “And in that journey, how do we find a greater sense of self-compassion so that we become more compassionate healers?”

Answering that question would ultimately inspire his life’s work. The founder and CEO of SuperSmartHealth and author of “Leading Well from Within: A Neuroscience and Mindfulness-Based Framework for Conscious Leadership,” Dr. Friedland has traveled the world educating people in the science of conscious leadership and resiliency.

He will be the opening keynote speaker at the 2019 National Symposium for Academic Palliative Care Education and Research, Oct. 11-12, in San Diego, where he will discuss “Leading Well into the Future,” exploring his neuroscientific and mindfulness-based approach that will help palliative care educators, researchers, and clinicians unlock the leader within themselves.

A Leader in Evidence-Based Medicine

Friedland’s first experience as a leader began when he learned how many of his medical school peers were struggling as he was. Determined to change the culture, he helped create the UCSF Medical Student Network, essentially enrolling the school into support group “families” led by fourth-year students who would model vulnerability to promote healing, resiliency and well-being. Friedland trained his fellow fourth-year students on how to lead the groups, and then rolled the program out across the school.

After completing his residency in Internal Medicine, Friedland was invited to become the medical school’s first teaching fellow. Though still fiercely passionate about leadership and resiliency, he was encouraged to choose a more academic focus for his fellowship. Intrigued by some recent articles on the then-novel concept of evidence-based medicine – and inspired by the emerging work of Gordon Guyatt, David Sackett, and others – he embarked on a groundbreaking journey into evidence-based medicine.

By the end of his fellowship year, Friedland had received funding from the American College of Physicians to teach a program on evidence-based medicine to his medical school faculty. Soon after, he presented his “train the trainers” approach at the Society of General Internal Medicine in Washington, D.C.

The response was so enthusiastic that Friedland was urged to convert his syllabus into a textbook. “Evidence-Based Medicine: A Framework for Clinical Practice” was published in 1998 – one of the first textbooks on evidence-based medicine in the U.S.

A Thirst for More Compassionate Care

Friedland spent the next decade of his life training tens of thousands of healthcare providers in evidence-based medicine, visiting almost every state in the country. By 2008, however, he felt increasingly called to do something more.

A fierce advocate for the wellbeing of not only patients but of healthcare providers, he returned to his earlier work: studying how to promote healing by pursuing self-compassion, resiliency, and conscious leadership. He also served as the founding chair of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine – a role that deepened his understanding of what it means to be a leader and cemented his passion for whole-person care – the foundation of palliative care.

“I felt a stirring in my heart, because evidence-based medicine is about the mind of medicine, and I was really missing the heart of healthcare – which for me was the leadership, resiliency, and compassionate care that had been so invested in my training,” Friedland said.

“I really wanted to come back and refocus that work,” he said. “And the blessing of my work in evidence-based medicine was that I had a science-based lens through which I could write my book and develop the companion workshop, called ‘Leading Well From Within.’ ”

“What I’m really so excited to share at the Symposium … is an experience in the awakening of conscious leadership: What is the neuroscience foundation, what are the skills and practices, and how can we elevate ourselves to lead from a higher self so that we can have a positive influence on others and together create a healing environment in which everybody can thrive.”

Daniel Friedland, MD, founder and CEO of SuperSmart Health

The Power of Conscious Leadership

Friedland’s work on Leading Well from Within is essentially a neuroscience- and mindfulness-based framework for engaging conscious leadership. It enables leaders to recognize their biological and emotional responses to stress and anxiety, redirect the innate “fight or flight response” that can damage their health, relationships, and productivity, and refocus on what they truly want to accomplish to experience greater meaning, significance, and impact.

The framework is applicable to all because leadership is ultimately an act of influence, Friedland said. Having influence is inevitable when we are interacting with other humans, whether it is at home, work, on social media, or picking up laundry at the dry cleaners.

“When you look at the neuroscience of connection, what we appreciate is that we’re all wired to connect,” he said. “Manifest with the definition of leadership being an act of influence is that you cannot not have influence. The only question is: are you having positive influence or are you having negative influence?”

In healthcare, conscious leadership can be especially impactful, whether you are a leader in the C-Suite, a practitioner working with patients, or a clinical educator training future healthcare professionals, Friedland said.

Cultivating a spirit of conscious leadership means asking “how can we elevate ourselves to lead from a higher self so we can have a positive influence on others and together create a healing environment within which everybody can thrive?” he said.

“Since you inevitably already have influence, the experience of connecting with conscious leadership isn’t even an act of becoming a leader; it is an act of awakening to the leader you already are,” Friedland said. “Leadership really is not a role; it is a way of being – it is how you are showing up with influence.”

In addition to his keynote address at the 2019 Symposium, Friedland will lead a workshop delving deeper into his four-part framework for developing conscious leadership. Space is in the workshop is limited, and reservations will be accepted beginning August 1.

About the 2019 Palliative Care Symposium

The CSU Shiley Institute for Palliative Care convenes the annual Symposium to bring thought leaders in palliative care scholarship together and ensure that palliative care concepts are woven into academic, clinical, or non-clinical education.

Reserve your room now to secure the Early Bird rate for the 2019 Symposium, Oct. 11-12, at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, Bay Tower. This year’s theme is “Advancing Palliative Care: Leading into the Future.”

For more information, visit our Symposium detail page here or call 760-750-7289.


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