Reflections on Ethical Leadership
These alumni are just a few of the many MFS graduates recognized as leaders in their specialties. We asked them to share their personal leadership styles, as well as their thoughts on how to remain ethical in positions of power. Whether they are standing up for civil rights or breaking the glass ceiling, alumni bring the lessons they learned at MFS with them into the workplace.
Ted Kreider ’06
• B.A., M.S. University of Pennsylvania
• M.D.-Ph.D. Candidate, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
How would you describe your day-to-day work?
I am currently pursuing an M.D. and a Ph.D. with the hope of becoming a physician-scientist. I spend some days in the lab studying HIV immunology and vaccines, while I spend others in the hospital caring for sick patients. During my training, I have also become involved in developing medical school curricula, and I am a fellow at the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health. I am currently establishing an outreach program for LGBT-identified youth called Out4STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Four years ago, I could not have predicted that I would be involved in the variety of projects that I am currently spearheading, but each one holds a lot of meaning for me.
What are you most passionate about in your line of work?
Everything. I have had the extremely good fortune of loving every aspect of my training and all of my extracurricular activities. And nothing is more fulfilling than identifying a problem (a disease, access to education, or social inequality) and devoting yourself to fixing that problem.
My thesis work involves studying the immune response against HIV-1 in hopes of developing new vaccination strategies. Over the course of my Ph.D. program, I have worked with collaborators across the country and around the globe to address this major international health problem. And while studying HIV has been fulfilling from the beginning of my training, I have also encountered new passions throughout the years. When I was a second-year medical student, I discovered that medical school curricula lacks representation of LGBT populations in its basic science training. After some research and discussions with many passionate experts in LGBT health, I realized that we could easily expose first-year medical students to the health problems that their transgender patients would present with. I proposed a Trans Health Symposium, and that same year the Endocrinology course directors implemented a three-hour lecture series on transgender health and tested first-year medical students on the material.
The success with which we have seamlessly integrated health education regarding a vulnerable and often marginalized patient population still drives me today. I’m currently working to publish our curriculum so that medical schools across the country can prepare the physician workforce of tomorrow to care for each and every patient.
Based on your experiences in medicine, what do you feel makes for an effective leader?
Leadership varies depending on your objectives, the team you’re working with, and your level of experience. But there are a few underlying principles. First, always listen to each team member who wants to voice an opinion. When forging into unknown territory, one never knows what obstacles are ahead, and each person brings a unique perspective and set of experiences. Second, check in with the group frequently. Rapport among a team is essential for success. And finally, never lose sight of the ultimate goal. Sometimes the most difficult thing to do when you’re starting a new project in lab, admitting a patient to the hospital, or establishing a new program is to stay on track. Using milestones or frequent reassessment (and reflection after completion of a project) allows you to accomplish your goals more readily and learn from mistakes you have made.
Did anyone from MFS have an impact on the field you chose to pursue?
While countless members of the MFS community contributed to my development, one who stands out is Judy van Tijn. Judy taught social studies, and she was faculty advisor for the Service Club while I was in Upper School. I remember sitting in Judy’s classroom during lunch each week and discussing service opportunities for current students. I had the sense that anything was possible – when it pertained to service, Judy never said no. Whether it was volunteering at a local shelter, implementing a new fundraising activity, or simply raising awareness about a cause that someone felt strongly about, Judy supported us. With her support, we took initiative, identified organizations or causes that we wanted to contribute to, and simply went for it. When starting a new endeavor, I still have doubts – is this actually a worthwhile cause? Will people care? Will I be able to accomplish my goals? With Judy’s help, I have developed the ability to brush off that self-doubt and incite changes that seemed improbable from the get-go.
What is one memory from MFS that you feel has shaped you as a person?
High school was a time of significant development – I discovered academic passions, I challenged myself with activities that I had no particular talent for (as most people who sat next to me in choir can attest), and I went through normal adolescent changes. But one memory that stays with me is the incorporation of the Operation Smile Penny Drive into Upper School Spirit Week. As a freshman, I came up with a proposal to include a fundraising aspect in the school’s Spirit Week, which was full of inter-class competitions like tug-of-war, hallway decorating, and airbands. I remember being placed on the Meeting for Business agenda and standing in front of the entire school, scared out of my mind. Despite my fear of public speaking, I knew that I was in a loving community that would support me even if I fumbled. The Upper School voted to include the Penny Drive in Spirit Week, and each year we raised more money than the year before.
When I went to college, I couldn’t find a service group that excited me as much as Op Smile did at MFS. So I helped establish the Penn Op Smile chapter, and I stayed with that group all four years of undergrad. I look back on the Penny Drive experience with fondness and realize how much the work I did with Op Smile has molded my professional interest in International Health and Pediatrics.
How did Quaker values encourage leadership and personal accountability in your life?
I basically grew up at MFS, so before college I didn’t know there were other ways of assuming responsibility for your actions (or inactions) than those based on Quaker values. The “I Care Cat,” “Rules for Fighting Fair,” mediation, and the Quaker propensity for service have all been ingrained in my psyche, and I subconsciously base all my decisions on these principles to this day. I think these lessons have helped mold my passion for infectious disease work and biomedical research in general. My future career, which will take one of many possible paths, will be centered on one principle: helping those who are sick and in need. On the whole, I feel like Quaker values pervade every aspect of my being. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
What advice would you give to current students pursuing leadership positions?
An important component of being a good leader is passion. Without passion, adversity will overwhelm you and lead to failure. Every project I have worked on has hit roadblocks, and my success in each endeavor has always hinged upon whether or not I felt passionate about the outcome. It doesn’t matter what drives you, all that matters is that something drives you. I believe every student can find that passion, and once you have a passion, hard work doesn’t always feel so hard.
To discover that passion, I would suggest putting yourself in a variety of situations. While I didn’t become a star soccer player or actor, playing on sports teams and trying out for the musical each year taught me valuable lessons that I am sure still influence me today. The obvious lesson from those two activities was that I would not always be able to meet my aspirations (or even reasonable expectations!). This highlights an important balancing force to the passion that is essential for successful leadership: Leaders must always recognize their limitations and accept that things will not always work out perfectly. The right balance between passion and humility results in effective leadership.