Health Care News, Health Center News

The Invaluable Impact of Clinical Leadership Coaching 

Photo of Dr. Karuppana, Coach; Dr. Franciosa, Coachee 


The professional journey of a clinical leader, especially at a Community Health Center (which include federally qualified health centers or FQHCs), can be complicated. Reports from seasoned health center clinicians indicate they’re not always prepared for a health center leadership role. In 2020, NACHC developed the Clinical Leaders Coaching Program, to provide one-on-one mentorship to health center clinical leaders with less than five years of experience. Given the instant and enthusiastic response we’ve received for the program, we’re actively recruiting new Coaches. (Learn more about that below!) 

“When I first began as a new FQHC clinical leader, I had a mentor whose belief in me had a profound impact on my career and helped me understand my potential as a leader. I decided to join the NACHC Clinical Leaders Coaching Program as a Coach because I believe in paying it forward.”

-Suganya Karuppana, MD, MHCD, CPE, CHC, CPHQ, Chief Medical Officer for Valle del Sol Community Health Center & Coach  

How Does NACHC’s Clinical Leadership Coaching Program Work?  

As part of a larger strategy to support and expand the health center workforce, NACHC is investing in this special one-on-one coaching program at no cost to participants.  

  • Coaches are volunteers who have served in their roles for many years and have learned NACHC’s Clinical Leadership core competencies.
  • Coachees can include newer medical directors, Chief Medical Officers, and other clinical department leaders in areas such as medical, dental, pharmacy, nursing, and behavioral health.  

Coach/Coachee pairs are carefully matched based on responses to a questionnaire that considers each participant’s background, specific discipline, health center patient population, location (urban/rural), and other factors.  

 “This type of program meets a clear need,” explains Robert Hoch, MD, MPH, NACHC Consultant. “Coaching is offered on a personal basis and many of these relationships develop a valuable life of their own.”    

Coachees are offered a Self-Assessment Tool that identifies specific skill gaps to discuss with their Coach and have access to targeted resources that address skill gaps. Coaches are trained in Clinical Leadership core competencies and also have access to curated resources. The program runs for three to four months, with one or two meetings per month between Coaches and Coachees. In many cases, long-term friendships arise.  

We’re confident this program is on the right track, as one Coachee tells us:

From the very first meeting, my Coach (Chris) and I knew we were a good pair. Chris has extensive leadership experience, and experience working in CHCs. We come from similar but different backgrounds. He was open to discussing all topics and did a great job coaching me and helping me think about things from a leadership perspective. He helped educate me on topics I needed to understand. He gave me 3 books on leadership that have been amazingly helpful as I continue to discover my leadership voice. Overall, I am thankful that we were paired because I have grown in my leadership role, but I have also grown personally.”   

This program just started its third year in operation with 17 eager Coach/Coachee pairs; however, there are 70 new clinical leaders who remain on the waiting list for a Coach.   

Coaches Are Needed 

Dr. Karuppana, a new Coach this session, offers this advice to anyone interested in taking on the role of Coach: “Throw your name in the hat because if you’re mid- to later-level in your career, you probably have a lot more to offer than you think – and you could make a meaningful impact on someone’s life.” Coaches offer invaluable professional development guidance. Likewise, the experience often benefits the Coach, providing bi-directional learning and the opportunity to meet a new professional colleague.   

 If you’d like to learn more about the Clinical Leaders Coaching Program, and maybe become a Coach in the New Year, please contact Katja Laepke, Director, Clinical Trainings & Workforce at NACHC:  klaepke@nachc.com 

More Coaching Resources  

NACHC also offers career and leadership coaching services to health center, primary care association (PCA), health center-controlled network (HCCN), and partner agency employees at all levels through NACHC’s Career & Leadership Coaching Services.  

The Western Clinicians Network offers dedicated coaching services to support developing clinical leaders in their four-state service area.  

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