Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.
I am Naji, your host today. So many times we hear about selfless leaders… Until you hear and meet Dr Daphne Haas Kogan, you obviously didn’t really see what selfless leadership is. Daphne is Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor at Harvard Medical School.
After her Biochemistry and Molecular Biology degree from Harvard University, Daphne received her M.D. from the University of California where she served as Vice-Chair for Research and Educational Program Director. Daphne has been elected in 2019 to the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. She has been selected as one of the top physicians in the United States by several publications including Best Doctors in America.
Daphne, I am just so honored and thrilled to have you with me today.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: It’s entirely my honor, and my pleasure truly.
Naji Gehchan: Great. I would, I would love to start, uh, definitely with the very beginning, let’s say, what’s your personal story, who you are as a person on what got you to health care and being the leader or the physician and the healthcare provider that you are today.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: So I can, I recall from a very early in childhood wanting to treat children with cancer. I don’t recall the exact impetus to when I was young, but I had a sense that that was a time, of course, when children and their families were in great need, um, emotionally, psychologically, physically. And I got, I had a sense.
That would be a place where I could truly, uh, contribute. Um, I have a, an interesting family story that I think has always, uh, positioned me to have this drive, to make the world a better place. Um, both of my parents, my mom’s from Poland and my father’s from Holland and both of them are Holocaust survivors and they each have.
Interesting family and, and personal histories that highlight the fact that people who were strangers to them, uh, saved their lives and saved the lives of, of many. And I remember even from. Uh, from very early in my childhood, the sense that I really had an obligation to pay it forward or pay it back. Um, however one wants to, um, articulate it and that it was really, uh, on me to, um, spread love as your organization states and really do everything that I could to do right by others, even others that I had never met.
And, um, leave the earth a better place than when I arrived on it.
Naji Gehchan: Wow. Oh, and throw you, you, you taken this to, you know, to a different level, obviously you’re actually doing it and. Great children, patients at their toughest moments. How are you defining today, your purpose and how you, you take this and you do it with all the team that you have, you, you are in leadership positions.
So how do you do this? And you transfer all that you’re bringing to so many for, for your impact to be even brother.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: I, I think. Of myself as being part of a team and part of a, a path with patients and their families. Um, that’s honestly a more fulfilling for me personally than I could have ever imagined a career being. So when a, uh, a child and their family come. Come to me for my expertise or my support, or I’m in need of a path of a person who’s going to travel a very challenging path with them, holding their hand along the way, uh, having the background, having, having the expertise to education, to, to, to walk that journey with them is a privilege beyond what I could have ever imagined.
The fact that. Families in their greatest time of need, but their trust in me is, uh, so deeply rewarding to me. Uh, it’s really what propels me and what, what helps me get up each and every morning. Um, even when I’m wishing I had more sleep, um, more recently since I moved from the university of California, San Francisco to Harvard.
I’ve had more responsibility in administrative and leadership roles. And I find myself really transitioning from being, uh, being focused on my career to some extent, to being focused on, on other people’s careers. When people talk to me about, um, Becoming the chair of the department of radiation oncology.
I often reflect on the fact that I never actually recall having an aspiration to be a chair of a department. And in fact, I very often was very reluctant to, um, to think of myself in this role. I, I think because, um, I’m very conscious of the fact that. That, that at least in my opinion, um, power is a very, um, undermining and corrupting, um, forced.
And, and to me, actually not being in a position of leadership and power was a more impactful straight forward, um, way. To contribute to the world. So it was with some trepidation and uncertainty and kind of dubious thoughts that I did take on this position. And it was a little bit of a leap of faith, kind of jumping into the water to see what it would be like.
What’s, what’s turned out to be very. True for me personally is that, and now I harp back to the transition that I was talking about a few minutes ago. I think the transition to a leadership position has to be at a time and was at a time for me in my life where my career, my personal career mattered much, much less to me in the sense that there wasn’t that much more honestly, that I really wanted to accomplish.
Um, It was a transition in that I have, I have three children and my youngest was finishing high school. So I was going to be newly empty nested. Um, uh, I have a wonderful family that I thought was getting settled and I needed to worry a little bit less about them perhaps. And I didn’t really have. Very obvious Frank tangible career aspirations that I hadn’t achieved.
So it was a very, very natural point of transition for me to start focusing the turning away from a focus on my personal aspirations to supporting other others aspirations. So the transition from. Uh, less of a leadership position to more of a leadership position that came along with moving from San Francisco to Harvard was a very poignant time for me in terms of it was no longer about myself.
Um, really it can never be about me anymore, but it always now, uh, should be about supporting other people. Um, be it patients or their families or relatives or staff or colleagues. Uh, faculty members, um, colleagues, uh,
Naji Gehchan: other chairs on like I a definite how, how you’re framing, which is quite the opposite of usually being a manager or in a leader position, how people would think of it.
You’re literally seeing it at the surface of your people, right. Really the servant leadership and the caring about the others and developing them. I it’s, it’s amazing how you framed it. Like it’s this tipping point where you really wanted to focus on others that brought you to leadership or a leadership position.
And did you change your opinion about power now? That’s you are one of the most powerful in the institutions that.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: Well, that’s definitely not true, but have, um, have more responsibility and accountability. And then than I did before, I definitely have not changed my position and my feelings. I, in fact, the longer I’m in the position, the more I realized that it really cannot be, can never be about oneself when one leaves.
Um, a group, um, like this, that really one must focus on the, on those, that one leads and my conviction of anything has strengthened, uh, as, as it, as it relates to that. And I do really feel, and I often reflect on the fact that I do think that that power is a corrupting force. I mean, when. When one has has, uh, let’s say I have the it’s it’s under my purview to, to offer somebody a position.
Um, the, any kind of, what if I ever get a feeling of, um, um, you know, wow, I’m in charge here. I know that I need to look at myself and back. And be introspective and, um, and be clear with myself about what the driving force has to be on it. The can never be about power or control or any of those, uh, any of those synonyms.
Um, but it required for me at least. I mean, they’re probably people that are, that are. More selfless than I am, but for me, at least it requires constant reflection on, is my motivation at this moment on this day, um, as it should be, and, and, and, and constantly being aware, um, that my motivations can never be corrected.
And if they ever are, I need to move long time for something else.
Naji Gehchan: And you can create the example on this. Like how you, how you manage a self-reflection. Uh, if you take the recruitment, you talked about recruitment, any processes you’ve done as a leader to make sure that, you know, you bring diversity inclusion, like you’re aware of all the unconscious biases that we might have as we’re recruiting.
And any concrete example, you can get inspired and, and apply
Daphne Haas-Kogan: well on this time of very heightened awareness of inequities that we honestly should have been aware of for, for decades. Um, I find myself questioning myself very often. For example, if I’m. If I’m ever a part of a group where, um, let’s say I express a, uh, questions or doubts about whether we’re being as inclusive as, as we might be.
If I ever feel, if I ever have a sense of, wow, that was a good thing you said, or a sense of feeling. Part of myself for like, say you saying the right thing. I immediately, um, put the brakes on and questioned myself and the purity of my motive. Like, are you doing this because it’s the right thing, or are you doing this to make yourself feel better?
And I always, always tried to back it up and make sure I’m doing it because it’s the right thing and never to make myself feel better. I, you know, I. No, I’ve I went to, um, I went to school and I trained in San Francisco in the eighties and the nineties. And, um, it was at the height of the aids crisis in San Francisco.
And, um, at the time, you know, I had a pretty traditional, um, heterosexual marriage with. You know, cute little children and the, the education that I received from being from training in the, in healthcare at a time when there was so much bigotry, um, against, especially against gay men and looking back at my own bigotry, um, was very transforming.
For me. And I think because I grew up in a very, my, uh, family of origin and my community of origin is very conservative and very traditional. And I grew up with very kind of traditional family values and having to question those and look at myself in a very critical light, especially. During those, the early days of the aids crisis really taught me a lot about the room for growth and room for education and room for change.
And then, um, kind of the, my family’s history of basically being persecuted for who they were not having any control about whether they. You know, we’re born Jewish or not. Um, and then the fact that I was a woman in the sciences, which wasn’t the easiest thing, um, especially not, you know, 30, 40, I guess, not quite, yeah.
You know, decades ago. And then, um, almost 20 years ago when actually I came out as a lesbian or. Really, um, brought home to me, uh, how deep seated Frank bigotry. And also as you say, um, kind of implicit bias and explicit, explicit bias is that every single one of us has that in us. And if we don’t question ourselves every minute of every day, we will inadvertently act on those biases.
Um, I know that I make mistakes right. And left every day. And if I don’t have it in me to examine my own behaviors and my own thought process and my own inclinations and make sure that I as much as possible, um, and always fighting for, uh, for the underdog, um, Be it underrepresented minorities, disenfranchise communities, um, that, that, that’s, that’s an enormous component of my mission and leadership and requires attention a lot.
It’s not something I think that can be taken for granted or, or honestly that even comes naturally.
Naji Gehchan: Oh, thank you so much. Uh, definitely for, you know, for sharing, for sharing your story and sharing this, uh, the, this with me it’s, um, you know, building on, on this, we, we discussed it last time offline, you know, and how, how you manage from obviously all your beliefs, all your learning, uh, w with this genuine leadership, your teams, you also.
When during the last year and still ongoing this year with the pandemic and, and healthcare has been challenged, it’s been done for you for your teams on the front lines. Um, but, but still you, you lead them. They show up, you show up for them. Uh, so, you know, beyond thanking you and everyone saying how, how much we appreciate and the, the heroes that you are, the chili everyday, for all those patients that you serve, any leadership, key leadership lesson for you during those times, you know, with your team and with, with all, uh, with all that you learn throughout, uh, throughout the years.
And, um, and your personal.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: I think one of the most important lessons that I’ve probably learned, but it was brought home. So clearly to me was something that, again, I think I learned from my teachers and mentors when I was a student during the aids crisis, but now I had to really practice an exercise as a leader. And that is honesty and transparency.
And. And owning getting it wrong and being willing to admit mistakes and do better. So for example, very early on, within days of, um, the pandemic, we, because we treat cancer patients and that’s not. It’s not a, uh, it’s because it’s a necessary procedure. Um, we, we couldn’t stop treating our cancer patients.
It wasn’t like we could, they weren’t elective procedures or elective surgeries. So we had to continue treating our patients and our staff had to continue, uh, coming in to, to treat the patients in person. And I saw everybody around me, our staff. But the patients, um, the trainees, the students, the, the, every role group, the radiation therapists, the nurses, the medical assistants, the physics staff, the dosimetry staff, um, the child life specialists and, and, and, and so many more, I saw that they were terrified.
To a large extent because it was so, uh, unclear, um, how broad and how deep the dangers were. And we had, um, young people who were, um, who were caring for elderly parents at home or for small children or for themselves, or who were pregnant, um, or had other responsibilities. And here they were coming in to treat.
Sick cancer patients. And it wasn’t clear to what extent they were exposing themselves to risks. And it was really hard to assuage their anxieties because honestly, number one, they were putting themselves at risk and number two, it wasn’t really clear how big the risk was to them. And number three, we didn’t know how to mitigate those risks.
So, for example, at the beginning, not only did we not have any personal protection protect, protective equipment PPE, we didn’t even have masks. We had, we had nothing. And, uh, and what we heard was that because of the way this virus spread, um, it really wasn’t necessary to mask. That was the original. Um, that was the original message.
And of course that’s what I told my staff. And in fact, I distinctly recall one, uh, the might’ve been the first or second day, very early on after we went virtual. But of course going virtual was really hypothetical for most of us because we had to be there for the patients. And one of the trainees had a mask that they had gotten.
From the outside world. So they hadn’t gotten it from the hospital, but they had acquired it outside. They had access to masks. Um, at the same time, our young therapists that were actually treating were also at the front lines, treating patients, you know, every minute of every day didn’t have masks because they didn’t have access to masks outside the hospital.
And we didn’t have masks in the hospital to provide them. And I went to the trainee and I asked the, ask this trainee to take their mascot. And because, uh, I didn’t feel that it was right for somebody who might have been a little more privileged than had, had access to a mask outside to where one within the department, when others who were really, you know, face-to-face with an inches of a patient’s face not having access to masks.
And I think back at that now, and I’m sure. I am mortified and, uh,
Naji Gehchan: shame, right?
Daphne Haas-Kogan: Like how, how could I have said that? How could I have told somebody to take off their mask? They were, they had their own set of, um, fears and of course they were, um, also in danger of contracting COVID.
So it was, I mean, looking, it was painful then, but it’s a hundred times more painful now in some ways to look back and see how wrong I got it. Um, but I think when it became clear that masking was absolutely imperative and the right thing, um, then owning it and saying to the whole department, I really got this wrong and I’m really sorry.
Um, was, uh, very, very important stuff. And I harped back and thought, you know, this is something that I learned when I was a trainee, because I saw other people owning their mistakes, owning things. They got wrong, owning their fears, owning their insecurities, owing, what they did know, and also what they didn’t know.
And I realized that it was others who taught me, who put themselves out for me as a young person, as a young mother, as a trainee, as a young healthcare provider, that helped me be transparent, honest, um, Open and accountable now, um, as a leader, I reflect on the fact that it’s really not easy to feel so exposed and to feel so wrong.
I really have gotten it so, so wrong and in a way that feels very personal, but I also realize. If one is going to lead through our crisis, you know, that’s what I have to practice and, and try to keep doing better every, every day.
Naji Gehchan: Yeah. But, and, and just took accountability. Beyond any leader, right? So you took accountability on a decision, that’s it?
You made, but it was not only you, right? Like this, these were the guidance. You, you, well, you’re a physician. So you did by the state of the art and evidence at that time. So, but still coming back and taking the ownership and saying, yeah, I got it all wrong. Many of them would have said, that’s not me.
Whoever I’d like the CDC or someone else. Who’s got it wrong, but it’s, I think, again, it’s another, it’s another point of, um, you know, find her honesty for you and your leadership, you know, being transparent and, and owning whatever we do. Right, right. Or wrong.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: It was very offline when we talked before. Um, that’s one thing.
Even though we haven’t known each other for that long. That was one thing that I’ve found really inspiring about your and Zena stories. And I’m hearing so much from many of our colleagues about the goodness that U2 spread that has, has really, uh, inspired me to, um, really get engaged with this spread love and organizations.
Um, And. Well, why I feel so honored, typically speaking with, okay.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you. That’s what we’re. Yeah, I know. You’re you’re way too kind to know where I think a lot of us as, as a human being, you know, even before being either as a, whatever, you know, as a human beings, we all try and drink an inbox and, uh, we’re, we’re, we’re definitely.
Uh, to help people in where they need most. So we definitely share, you know, volumes and we share also the same purpose. So it’s, yeah, it’s just amazing to have you with us. I would love know to jump into the different sectors. Where I will be giving you one word and I promise there is one words here. You might smile.
I, because you said it many times, I wrote it before the interview. So let me give you this word and then tell me whatever you have top of mind.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: Okay. Sounds good. Great.
Naji Gehchan: So women in leadership,
Daphne Haas-Kogan: I think women have a very important role to play in. And leadership on the one hand, I think women have themselves experienced, um, inequities.
On the other hand, I think women are in more empowered positions than many other groups. So we’re in this sweet spot as women where we really, many of us have very much felt. What it’s like to be treated unfairly and not be given opportunities, perhaps to be judged prematurely about our abilities or our roles, but we’ve also come a long way.
So we’re empowered to help other groups that are tens, if not hundreds of year behind us, in terms of opportunities. So for, for me as, uh, as a woman and leadership, and I think for all women in leadership, um, there’s an enormous responsibility of taking the, the experience that experiences that we’ve had, both the unpleasant experiences, but also the experiences that we’ve had and in our mentors, our colleagues, um, Uh, our students empowering, empowering us and making sure that we pay it forward and, and empowering and assisting and mentoring and supporting those who have not had quite the opportunities that we have.
And of course there are many such groups.
Naji Gehchan: Yeah. What about, uh, innovation?
Daphne Haas-Kogan: Innovation is a very interesting word to follow women in leadership because, um, I’ve been reflecting very often on the fact that I find in general that many of my women, colleagues and leadership don’t think about innovation as a mission. And I think we should. I think we, we many women that I’ve encountered including myself,
At least I very much put one foot in front of the other and don’t actually think much about any innovative contributions that I could ever make. Um, but in some ways it’s not true. There are things that. Um, I think about ideas that I have that are innovative and I think it requires me and other women to step out of our comfort zone and to be brave and to think, yes, we can be innovative.
We have innovative ideas and we should, um, engage others. Hmm. Try to do something new, something outside the box. Something that doesn’t feel as comfortable and it might be, might be, might be different, but it’s worth taking the chance for,
Naji Gehchan: and do you have like a feeding of what might be holding, holding you or the women doc?
And what’s your advice?
Daphne Haas-Kogan: Yeah, I thought a lot about this. I don’t, I don’t have that much of a deep insight. I would say that women that I am exposed to on a professional level, um, many of them have been socialized to, um, to be very. Uh, to be very given and be motivated, uh, very much by benevolence. And sometimes for me, the concept of innovation, um, feels a little self-serving of course it isn’t.
Um, but sometimes it gets attached to feelings of being self-serving, um, which then. Honestly feels like a turnoff to me. I, I would myself and I think many women colleagues that I interact with, um, want to make sure that our mission is to do right by others, not ourselves. And so I don’t think we often think of ourselves as having, um, innovative, innovative ideas to.
Um, frankly, it’s, it’s a reason that I find myself and I find that many other women, uh, shying away from public speaking or speaking to groups because in a very similar way, I mean, I certainly feel like I don’t have very much to offer like a group of listeners let’s say. Um, but it’s
Naji Gehchan: probably, you’re
Daphne Haas-Kogan: so kind.
But I think, I think it takes just being brave with thinking about things a little bit differently. So maybe I don’t have as much to offer as somebody else who has more expertise than me, but you got to have my personal story to offer. And maybe my idea is a little bit more innovative than I than I think, I think it’s perhaps a little bit part of the socialization process of what motivates women or what women feel like should motivate them.
But beyond that, um, I’m sure there are other insights that others would have that I would be very interested to hear. Right?
Naji Gehchan: Yeah, definitely. It’s it’s part of also your, your humble leaders. I think your story is amazing. It’s so inspiring and can definitely inspire so many, so many people who are listening to all this, but you were such a humble and selfless leader that says this is what’s bringing those words.
Then the next word I have, I literally wrote it before. So it’s it’s questions or questioning.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: So, although I did say that I grew up in a very traditional household in a very traditional community and culture. The culture that I did grow up in was very, um, very much valued questioning and curiosity. So curiosity as in a life, a lifelong learner, um, but questioning in a way that steps beyond just lifelong learning and honestly questioning authority and questioning the status quo.
And that’s one thing that I very much enjoyed and I didn’t really understand how much I would enjoy this in my leadership position that I think because of the way I grew up, I’m not afraid to question. And, and when I’m with my team, I’m I find it. I find the role of questioning in a very open way. Very.
And I think it’s extremely important, um, in, in any organization, but in particular for leaders to be very comfortable with questioning and always question assumptions, questioned the process, question the conclusions very much, not in a judgemental way, but rather in a truly and deeply open and curious way.
But question nonetheless.
Naji Gehchan: Right. And, and I can attest that you have the best questions, always. The last one I heard you, well, you said it a little bit of it in the beginning, spread love and organizations.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: So of course you, you and Zena are the, the, the beacon of, of that and all that you do, how you think and how you execute.
Um, for me, honestly, Getting to talk to people like you is an enormous part of the inspiration. Um, and ultimately I think probably the most life altering experience I had was actually having children. And that really taught me, um, Uh, lesson that I, I think I really needed to learn and well, two lessons, um, the, the lesson of patience and the lesson of selflessness and, um, having children teaches you patience and selflessness very, very quickly to get a crash course.
And one night you get to practice at all and, uh, That the ability to practice, um, selfless selflessness and kind of very deeply dedicated divorce, devoted, unconditional love and child and child rearing and, um, and raising a family. Very much a guided my feelings of spreading love in my leadership position in my workplace.
I look back at times where I felt like I was, I felt so challenged. Um, so. Unworthy, uh, really like, I, I w I wasn’t gonna make it for, for one reason or the other. And I think of people who approached me with openness, curiosity, as we said, and honestly, just devotion and love. And that’s what got me to the next day and helped me move on and have more confidence in myself and, and, um, gained the strength.
In, in, in myself to then go and be able to give to others. And now it’s time for me to do for others. What, um, others did for me and continue to do for me. Um, I think even about coming to Harvard and how difficult that transition was for me, and there were people right and left that were there for me. Um, Whether it was by just inquiring how I was or, um, helping teach me or not making me feel silly when I asked and a question that wasn’t all that educated.
Um, I mean, it took so many. Forms and facets that, that the support and love that was, um, that I was afforded. Uh, and so in every stage of my, of my, of my life and my career, that the least I can do for my community and for the world is to pay it forward by spreading the love.
Naji Gehchan: Great. Thanks, Daphne. Do I’d love to hear a final word of wisdom for, you know, for your students to the other D there’s that’s your hub for our little kids growing, you know, and, and dreaming of changing the word then being the future either is in healthcare around, around the word.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: Well, we’ve talked about many of the themes that are really central to what makes me.
Maybe one thing that comes to mind that we didn’t talk about is, uh, one thing that’s been very, very helpful to me early in my career, but in particular in my leadership position is always, always to think how it feels, how a word, a sentence and experience feels to the other person, never to jump to conclusions and always the feel to, um, to think well of the.
I think relative my colleague think well of the organization. Um, any, any, uh, tendency that I might have to, um, to think that somebody is approaching me with ill will, or has a, uh, a poor motivation. It’s a feeling that I actively try to resist and I would advise others to constantly resist and the, the approach of always thinking well of others and making, making sure I think, what does this feel like to them?
Where are they coming from when they’re reacting to me? How did, um, how did the experience or the word I said, or my tone? How did that land with. Were they coming from and their reaction that’s really helped me be a more thoughtful and inclusive and effectively.
Naji Gehchan: Well, thank you so much. Let him inspiring leader, selfless either. You are definitely thank you for being with me today and for all that you do every single day, helping so many patients, I’m giving, giving back love, care, and compassion for all the people that 2d then for all the patients that.
Daphne Haas-Kogan: Well let’s people like you and Zena that inspire me.
So the gratitude goes from me to you. So thank you.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
Follow us on LinkedIn and connect with us on spreadloveio.com. We’re eager to hear your thoughts and feedback. Most importantly, spread love in your organizations and spread the word around you to inspire others and amplify this movement, our world so desperately needs.