The Bright Star and Blinding Star Effect

A Leadership Pearl from Reginald Munden

John Leyendecker, an astrophysicist at heart, wrote a piece for RadTeams comparing a galaxy to a radiology department. In this blog, he explains how the mass of the stars in a galaxy are not sufficient to hold a galaxy together based on current gravitation concepts. This deficiency in mass led to the theory of dark matter, which is apparently in abundance in the universe although it cannot be detected. Fascinating explanation for one like me who certainly is not an astrophysicist; heck, I barely know any physics, but please don’t tell the ABR. Anyway, without dark matter, galaxies as we know them wouldn’t exist. His analogy is that our radiology departments are like a galaxy with our shining stars (luminary faculty) and dark matter (the rest of us) serving as the glue to hold us together. As strange as all this dark matter stuff sounds, as a department chair, I love the analogy. 

His analogy brings to mind the opposite effect upon a department by a faculty member who is a bright star, but for all the wrong reasons. This faculty member is the dysfunctional, complaining, non-worker who takes all the energy and resources of the department for themselves. They are a bright star, but certainly not a shining one. Perhaps using John’s analogy, they are a supernova—exploding and destroying all the surrounding good stuff. Their actions bring out the “dark” aspect of our dark matter faculty resulting in the department coming unglued; even worse is that happy faculty become unhappy. For these people, I like to use the analogy they are that person on a busy highway who is approaching with their bright headlights on. You know there are other automobiles out there, but you can’t see their lights because this one individual is blinding you. But, we have to see those other headlights and make sure they remain visible, otherwise there will be a major traffic accident destroying us all. How is this done? Often people will say that if they could get rid of this person (maybe their car stops working?), then things would be great. However, this is often a fallacy because remember, there are other headlights out there. When you dim one person’s lights, there may well be someone who rises to the occasion and decides to fill the void by turning on their bright lights. So that tactic doesn’t always work. What you do is to flash your bright lights at the person (confront their behavior) and often they respond. And yes, much like in heavy traffic, you may have to flash your lights at them periodically to remind them. In short, the goal is that while there may be a few bright lights out there, you want to make sure they are not blinding lights, and all lights are visible. And much like our universe, this process is somewhat nebulous.

Reginald F. Munden, MD, DMD, MBA

Chair, Department of Radiology and Radiological Science

Medical University of South Carolina

Chair, ARRS Membership Committee

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