Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Aviation and Leadership

Aviation and Leadership


Photo Source: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Nieves Camacho

This past fall, I had the opportunity to attend the Cerner Health Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. One of the keynote speakers was Colonel Nicole Malachowski. Col. Malachowski has a long and impressive list of accomplishments, which includes being the first female member of the Thunderbirds, a White House Fellow, and a scholar that was awarded multiple top honors in her academic career. And on top of all this, she is an advocate for patients suffering from tick-borne illnesses, as she herself is affected with this malady. As a consequence of her condition, Col. Malachowski was forced to retire from flying.

Col. Malachowski has incorporated her leadership talents and inspiring tales into speaking engagements, like the Cerner conference. She emphasizes three main points. Naturally, given her background, she relates them to aviation. Here they are:

Harnessing Headwinds of Change: She says in flying, headwinds slow you down. Headwinds require that pilots be resilient and resourceful “Headwinds are the perfect metaphor for the change impacting organizations and individuals today,” says Col. Malachowski. Certainly, in healthcare, we face numerous headwinds such as declining reimbursement, regulatory changes, and rising expenses, just to name a few. We have to show resilience. This reminds me of our value of innovation.

Pushing the Envelope: Being the Best When It Counts. She said individuals and teams who achieve at the highest levels have one thing in common: they push the envelope and go to the edge of boundaries. This reminds me of our values of beyond service and visionary. We have numerous opportunities in achieving outstanding quality, financial, employee satisfaction, and patient satisfaction. It is energizing to strive to be the best, or as we say in our vision, a top-tier medical practice.  

Breaking Barriers: Conquering Self-Doubt & Cultural Paradigms. Every great accomplishment requires breaking cultural and personal barriers, according to Col. Malachowski. I find her personal mantra—“nobody wants to lead a scripted life” especially inspiring. To see such a successful and decorated  individual persevere through an illness that caused her medical retirement, and from that to go on create a positive message that is inspiring others is truly motivating. We all face unexpected challenges. That is called life. No matter the obstacles we face, there is always a positive outcome we can find, and possibly use to encourage others

Have a great week!