DDW News


APPs Looking Beyond Clinical Care Must be Proactive

Steven Wei, EdD, MS, MPH, APP supervisor at MD Anderson Cancer Center

Advanced practice providers (APPs) interested in pursuing careers outside of clinical care must take more initiative in seeking out opportunities for leadership development, according to Steven Wei, EdD, MS, MPH, APP supervisor at MD Anderson Cancer Center and a presenter on the topic at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2023.

“Our profession is growing, and our roles are expanding,” said Dr. Wei. “APPs have to find their niche, even beyond clinical care.”

Dr. Wei focused on five career pathways available to APPs.

  • Clinician
  • Administrator
  • Researcher
  • Educator
  • Manager/supervisor


According to Dr. Wei, it is never too early for APPs to start thinking about non-clinical career paths. “Almost all APPs start off being clinicians,” he said. “I think a couple years of working in that environment is important, but even as a fresh grad you can start thinking about where you want to go. You’ll be able to identify opportunities when they open up and discover what your niche might be.”

Dr. Wei acknowledged that not all institutions will be proactive or supportive of APPs pursuing non-clinical pathways. Ultimately, it is up to the APP to take control of their career and seek out opportunities. “It depends on who you’re working with and how invested they are in the APP’s personal career development,” he said. “The APP has to seek professional development opportunities. Development can expand into research, education or administration, depending on what’s available at that institution.”

Many APPs may be aware of the various non-clinical career pathways available, but they often lack opportunities to develop the leadership skills needed to excel at them. “We don’t get a lot of leadership skill development during our training,” Dr. Wei said, “and there usually aren’t too many opportunities even in our place of employment.”

Dr. Wei broadly grouped leadership skills training into two categories.

  • Interpersonal literacy: Developing self-awareness, emotional intelligence, professionalism and communication skills, as well as mentoring others, receiving coaching and getting constructive feedback.
  • Systems literacy: Learning about the business and financial aspects of an organization, including factors such as cost of care, benchmarks and higher liability principles.



Dr. Wei recognized that it can be difficult for APPs to focus on career development while caring for patients, but he encouraged them to be proactive. “Our role as APPs is constantly expanding,” he said. “We have more indirect patient care responsibilities. It appears we have less time to focus on career development. It can be difficult to find those opportunities because we’re so stretched.”

Dr. Wei provides some advice to APPs interested in developing their leadership skills.

  • Start thinking about how you can develop leadership skills early in your career
  • Reflect on your personal strengths, passions and interests
  • Find out what opportunities are available at your institution
  • Seek feedback from others
  • Volunteer
  • Engage with professional organizations and attend conferences


“There are a lot of possibilities for leadership training out there, but there may not be many opportunities,” Dr. Wei concluded. “The pathways are going to be self-discovered, and hopefully opportunities will present themselves. You have to be bold and ask for those opportunities.”

Dr. Wei’s oral presentation, “APP leadership pathways beyond clinical care” on Saturday, May 6, at 4:54 p.m. CDT is part of the session “SSAT Panel I: Optimizing Patient Care through Collaborative Team Practice in Gastrointestinal Surgery.”

Access to session recordings

If you’re attending DDW, your registration includes access to a recording of this session, available to watch at your convenience until May 17, 2024. Session captures will be released 24 hours after the session ends. Non-attendees can also purchase access to DDW On Demand to watch session recordings after DDW ends.

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