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7 Questions on Leadership with Fredrick A. McCurdy

Name: Fredrick A. McCurdy

Title: Professor of Pediatrics/Pediatric Nephrology

Organisation: Driscoll Children's Health System

Dr. Fredrick McCurdy has built his career on the cornerstone of public service. As the leading pediatric nephrologist in Southern Texas, and being Board Certified in both Pediatrics and Pediatric Nephrology, he has used his expertise to serve patients needing renal intervention. As Medical Director for Star Kids, a managed Medicaid program of the Driscoll Health Plan, he is a well-known advocate for children with disabilities and from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.

In addition, Dr. McCurdy has focused on developing the next generation of doctors throughout his career as an active faculty member of Driscoll Children’s Hospital and a clinical faculty member at area hospitals. Given his career rooted in service (retired Colonel USAF), this initiative-taking approach to medicine, public health policy, and medical education has fueled his approach to facilitating healthy lives for children and preparing the generations of doctors who serve them.

He is a well-regarded speaker and researcher in the fields of pediatric nephrology and medical education. His understanding of how public resources can impact medical efficacy is unmatched. He is active in the Texas Pediatric Society and a reviewer of numerous peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. McCurdy leverages his background in the military and medical education to create programs that develop thorough doctors who efficiently practice medicine and assist patients in living full lives. His professional and civic experiences demonstrate his commitment to giving young people the resources needed to lead fulfilling lives.

Dr. McCurdy earned his MD and PhD with Distinction at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He completed his internship and residency within the military and finished his training as a fellow at the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He later earned his MBA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Fredrick's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Saying no. As a physician, I am encouraged to say "yes" to almost any circumstance that is in the patient's best interest. Physicians as a group avoid conflict unless it is to argue amongst themselves frequently on a minute detail that is likely going to be irrelevant as soon as the argument is over. Physicians do not like to be told "No". It goes against everything they have ever been taught about the delivery of patient care. So, in short, say "No" and meaning it has been the hardest thing I have ever had to learn, particularly when it is saying "No" to medicine and saying "Yes" to me - taking time for myself; always a struggle

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Some would argue that as soon as I graduated from medical school, I was a leader. This is grounded in the belief that physicians by virtue of their title must be leaders. I personally don't subscribe to that. I have always chosen to practice medicine as a partnership enterprise rather than the more paternalistic approach taken by many of my colleagues. Once I graduated from medical school, I was a Major in the US Air Force and as I rose in the ranks I found myself being responsible for more people and more stuff. So, I was a positional leader by virtue of my rank. But I also wasn't comfortable with that so I chose to lead by influence and by role modeling as much as I could. I evnetially became a Department Chair and in this role, I had some amount of absolute authority and could use my position as a means to be directive. Again, I never found that to be an effective way to get "buy-in" so I continued to try and develop my leadership style as being more of a "servant leader". I have found that to be the most comfortable style for me; and I developed my own personal mission statement - To incent or inspire those around me to become the best at whatever they choose.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I have to-do lists. I use my calendar to keep me on task. So, I get up, exercise, eat breakfast with my wife, go to the hospital, attend morning report (M-F), go to clinic most days and see patients, answer e-mails and telephone calls first thing in the morning, at noon, and after the clinic is complete. On my non-clinic days, I work on the things on my to-do lists and, on my calendar, taskings working through them systematically and keeping in mind that taskings may change in their order of priority, so I have to stay flexible. So In Covey terms, I work mostly in quadrants 1 and 3, but I really try hard to reserve time in the day to do quadrant 2 activities (exercise, spend quality time with my wife, read at the end of the day books that likely have very little to do with medicine; I am reading about medicine every day as new questions arise and I am confronted with a new challenge so I have to "speed read" when this happens.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Two things - begin with the end in mind and seek first to understand before being understood. I am surrounded by highly skilled and knowledgeable people who have never learned what Covey wrote in his 7 Habits book. I really do take what he wrote very seriously and use his work in my teaching of teachers and teaching of residents/students all the time.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey. I am now reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahneman. This is a very slow read for me because I am really reading for deep knowledge and this means I have to invest time and energy to really understand this author

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Trust you gut - given to me by a mentor; Be the best version of yourself as possible - again same mentor; You never know if it is going to work only after you try - ignore the naysayers and critics and trust your own instincts - again same mentor

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

When Matt couldn't go to Lion's Camp, I and another Pediatrician said this was wrong. So, we took it upon ourselves to take some kids on a weekend retreat; kids who had complicated medical conditions that no one would have ever thought could go to camp. From that came Childre's Association for Maximum Potential (CAMP). It is still operating 44 years later and can be found at Our mentor told us that nothing was impossible and all the other things I have already mentioned in the best advice part. We simply never took "No" as an answer, and created a place when almost no child would ever be told "No, you are two disable to go to camp". When we started, I never saw this as me being a leader. I saw it as being a servant to children with medical complexity. Reflecting back, it is probably the best example I can give of how I would translate being a servant leader into an action plan.

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