I’ve never been one of those people who really bought into the “baseball is a metaphor for life” thing. But the longer days, melting snow, and opening day have got me thinking about one aspect of baseball that does resonate: teamwork. While individual accomplishments are recognized, everyone on the winning team gets a World Series ring, even the guy with the lowest batting average, or the third left-hand reliever on the list.
As a team sport, even baseball pales in comparison to medicine, especially academic medicine. Nothing we do can be done by one individual acting alone. This is why one of our core values is Collaboration: “We work together to care for children and families.” To be a team means more than just a group of people working in the same area. Among the important things that transform a group into a team are common purpose, mutual respect, and collective responsibility. All the members of the team are working toward the same goal – the health of a child, meeting the needs of a family, understanding a disease. Sometimes it means putting off one’s own goals, at least temporarily, like a sacrifice bunt to advance another team member into scoring position. It means each team member doing what she or he does best to lead to the shared outcome, regardless of the “credit” that may be given. In turn, each team member respects the unique contribution of the others. On a functioning team, diversity (of skill, talent, background, perspective) is a core strength. An all-star team composed entirely of pitchers will never win. In the end, all the team members share in the credit for success, or the responsibility for failure. Members of teams don’t hog the limelight and they don’t point fingers.
Because we work in such a complex environment, we recognize the many teams each of us is on. It might be the group of care providers in the clinic or OR. It might be the individuals working on a research project. The leadership team of a service line. The members of a committee. Leaders from our various campus partners like MCW, CHW, CSG. The partnership between a family and a provider. The list is nearly endless. But all of these are teams, and all have in common those key features of collaboration: common purpose, mutual respect, collective responsibility.
So while I have always been terrible at baseball (I was actually held back in Little League!), I am grateful for the spirit of teamwork and collaboration I have found in academic pediatric medicine, and in particular here at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Medical College of Wisconsin.