Dr. Eldrin F. Lewis: Embracing the Fabric of Diversity

By Evan J. Cutts

Boston, MA — Eldrin F. Lewis, MD, MPH has served as a faculty member in the cardiovascular division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for the last 16 years. The latter two-thirds of that time was spent as the program’s Director, a position he still holds. Driven by family, faith, and the well-being of his patients Dr. Lewis showcased promise early in his career being among the first recipients of the Minority Faculty Development Award for propitious young physicians with research potential. Today, Dr. Lewis holds major leadership positions with organizations such as the Clinical Cardiology Council of American Heart Association Heart Failure, National AHA Research Committee, Association of Black Cardiologist Research Committee, and others.

Dr. Lewis received his B.S. Degree in Pre-medicine at Pennsylvania State University, his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine where he won the Joel Gordon Miller Award for community service and leadership, and a Masters in Public Health degree from Harvard School of Public Health. As you will read in the following interview, Dr. Lewis’ commitment to the wellbeing and advancement of those he serves has only grown. Using his wealth of expertise, Dr. Lewis continues to lay a foundation for prospective medical professionals to excel in and transform the life sciences field.

CM: Can you tell me more about your role as Director of the Cardiovascular Clerkship Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)?

EFL: I have been Director for the past 11 years. I am responsible for coordinating the Harvard Medical School students and visiting students to get a general education on the management of patients admitted to the cardiology services. The students work on one of several services: General cardiology, coronary care unit, heart failure service, or consult service. We have up to 5 students for each 4-week rotation and have about 40 students annually. I have also developed a curriculum with a series of lectures germane to cardiovascular education. Finally, I interface with Harvard Medical School to provide final grades.

What are some of the rewards and challenges of your role?

It is rewarding to see bright, young students each month who are eager to start their careers, many of them in internal medicine and cardiology.  I enjoy teaching the students each month and giving them career advice as needed. The key challenges are the logistics of the position and ensuring balance, fairness, and completeness in the evaluation of each student.

What motivates and/or inspires you to do the work you do?

There are several things that motivate me, including my faith, family, and friends.  I have a strong faith that guides me in my daily walk in life. It helps me through whatever small and large storms that may arise. My family is so important; I strive to be the best for all of them and meet their individual needs. My kids all have unique talents and make me laugh. They are my true legacy! My friends keep me grounded and provide tremendous support and guidance.

In addition, I am motivated by my patients, progress, and passions. My patients push me to always be better and give them the best chance to maximize their outcomes to have them live as long as possible AND with the best quality of life possible. I constantly strive for progress in my research so that I can help people that I never will meet, personally in order to be the best person that I can be and leadership in all of my roles.  Finally, I like to pursue my passions of photography, travel, and sports.

In your opinion, what skills are necessary to be an effective leader?

There are several key skills to effective leadership, such as communication, emotional intelligence, and being a team player. Effective leaders are also able to achieve the following:

  • An understanding of the needs of those whom you are leading and what is required to help them realize their goals.
  • Provide oversight and growth within the framework of the organization’s ecosystem.
  • Earn and reciprocate respect
  • Make difficult decisions with fairness and decisiveness as well as a willingness to ask for help or admit your mistakes
  • Maximize positivity in the environment
  • Develop a short and long-term vision for the organization and ensure that it is a shared vision across the team/organization

How does emotional intelligence inform your goals, responsibilities, and strategy?

I am more likely to pause when I get upset at a situation and consider the alternative perspective of each situation.  This informs my goal setting by thinking of alternative goals and ability to achieve them. Responsibilities are driven by my ability to complete the tasks and to determine if I need to delegate.  My strategy is focused on determining how to achieve the goals most effectively and to be willing to reassess the importance of staying on a particular track.

What impact are millennials and Gen Z’ers having on the health and life sciences industry?

I think their biggest impact is bringing technology to healthcare delivery. Millennials and Gen Z’ers are helping us understand how we can leverage wearable devices, smartphones, smartwatches, etc. to track health metrics and provide motivation to improve health is important. They also are leading the way in establishing a healthy work-life balance.

Looking ahead, what should health and life sciences professionals keep their eyes on?

There are several key areas to focus on. Ranging from identifying and reducing disparities and avoiding unconscious biases that may influence our diagnosis and treatment of diseases, to changing behaviors that many have adopted in the US (e.g., less physical exercise, poor diet) and increasing strategies for primordial and primary prevention. Primordial prevention is focused on preventing the development of the initial risk factors for disease (e.g., avoiding childhood obesity, avoiding high blood pressure, etc.). Finally, as we understand the genetics of disease, we need to apply this carefully as we provide genetic counseling and determine if knowledge of a gene that one may have can impact their choices in life to avoid the disease or if it just creates anxiety as one ages.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a person of Color in 2019?

A person of Color comes with reflecting on our rich culture and histories, embracing the beautiful fabric of diversity (all races), and understanding the continued struggles and challenges that persist in the United States.   I think it is an important time to think strategically on how to build our community to compete in all aspects of the world and to embrace new ideas of what we can do, what gives us passion, and what we want to see for the next generation.  Finally, I think we should seek out the similarities between all ethnicities/races as we realize that we are all important parts of the melting pot in the United States each providing small differences that make us incredibly unique and valuable to the entire community.