Heart surgeon Marc Pelletier and his self-improvement journey
Updated: Feb 9
Cardiac surgeon Marc Pelletier still remembers the article he discovered years ago now that hooked him on coaching as a way to improve his leadership.
The piece in the New Yorker was penned by noted American surgeon, writer and public health researcher Atul Gawande, chronicling the notion of coaching outside of the sporting world – and his own decision to have a retired surgeon watch him in the operating room to see how he could do better.
Marc, then serving as chief of cardiovascular surgery at the Saint John Regional Hospital and the New Brunswick Heart Centre, immediately realized the benefits of having that critical, neutral assessment to improve performance.
“It was the idea for me of self improvement that I really enjoyed. How do I know I am doing as good a job as I can? Who is going to tell me I’m doing a good job?” he says. “Not my students and not my colleagues.”
Not long after he discovered the New Yorker piece, Marc and I met and began a conversation about the benefits of leadership coaching. Too often, Marc realized, physicians find themselves in charge of large departments, making critical leadership decisions on issues usually far outside their own medical training.
“For me, the benefit of coaching is having that outside perspective, somebody who has a bird’s-eye view, who can help you assess your own performance. A coach is someone who can help you identify where you are doing well and where you are not, to build on your strengths and address your weaknesses.” - Dr. Marc Pelletier.
Marc struck me as a thoughtful, conscientious professional – qualities that came across in an interview I did with him nearly 10 years ago. (For those interested, I’ve dug through the archives – you can find the article and a video clip here.)
Marc went on to work with coaches at Vision Coaching several times over the years, helping him learn to navigate difficult conversations, to delegate to others and ways to improve on his own leadership.
“For me, the benefit of coaching is having that outside perspective, somebody who has a bird’s-eye view, who can help you assess your own performance," he says. "A coach is someone who can help you identify where you are doing well and where you are not, to build on your strengths and address your weaknesses.”
When Marc ended up leaving the New Brunswick Heart Centre in 2016 after accepting a position at Harvard Medical School, the coach helped him work his way through sharing that with colleagues and others.
“When I was leaving New Brunswick to go to the United States, I didn’t want it to be a negative thing. I needed people to understand this was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to.”
In Boston, he led a specialized cardiac surgery program at Brigham and Women's Hospital, one of the main teaching hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
Now in Cleveland, Ohio as the chief of cardiac surgery at the Cleveland Medical Center and the director of the Heart Surgery Center at the Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, Marc says leadership coaching has been so powerful for him that he hasn’t hesitated to recommend it to other physicians.
“Coaching has been very helpful to me in my career. In fact, I think in large part how I have been able to ascend in my career has benefited tremendously from coaching,” he says. “I’ve referred several of my colleagues to Vision Coaching over the years and the responses and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive.”