Deans, Assistant & Associate Deans, Heads, Chairs & Academic Directors
Getting to know our leaders: Q&A with Diane Gorsky
Diane Gorsky, Associate Dean, Operations and Policy, Faculty of Medicine (N. Pearce photo)
By Cory Burris (Dec. 2012)
After holding leadership positions in industry, government, and consulting, Diane Gorsky set her sights on academia. With strong governance abilities, best practices, and effective, integrated planning skills, Diane now holds the position of Associate Dean, Operations and Policy at Dalhousie’s medical school.
Diane operates on the frontlines of numerous leadership committees, carefully guiding and providing structure for the school’s 21 departments. She’s strengthening the school’s accountability, improving social and health policy, and building partnerships with government, district health authorities, and teaching sites.
Sometimes it’s daunting, she says, but for her, it’s all about building buy-in.
You’ve had a number of roles before coming to academia. What prompted you to the position of Associate Dean, Operations and Policy?
The Dalhousie campus symbolizes my interest in academic administration. I’ve always been captivated by the historic, stone buildings alongside the new, modern structures that we have here. I also saw opportunity in joining Dalhousie while the academic sector was going through transformation. The dynamics are rapidly changing, and this is an immense challenge for academic institutions that are steeped in tradition. It was a fascinating opportunity to join the next generation of university leaders.
How has your education prepared you for this role?
My career has not been linear. Many people have observed that the corporate ladder has been replaced by a career ‘lattice’ built along horizontal and vertical paths. This has definitely been the case in my situation. I graduated from an MBA during an economic recession. While it was a challenging start, I eventually secured senior leadership positions in government, in industry and consulting. I think this has been an advantage – bringing other perspectives to academic administration.
What kind of qualities or qualifications do you see as important for leadership in a medical institution?
The qualities and qualifications have changed significantly over the last 10 years. Leaders need to be strategic with a strong understanding of governance, finance and best practices. Leaders must build a sense of shared stewardship and distributed leadership across the faculty. I often joke that my job is like ‘herding seagulls’. But I think there is sometimes an important role to lead from behind. I am working with my colleagues to build buy-in. This is fundamental to successful change management.
What do you see as priorities for the medical school, and how are you guiding the Faculty of Medicine toward these priorities?
I am passionate about strategic planning. An essential step is broad, faculty-wide dialogue and setting annual priorities and tactics. The Medical School’s priorities are outlined in our one-page strategic plan; the one page plan has been an effective tool to strategically engage and align our large, diverse faculty.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I am trying not to have a ‘leadership style’ in the usual sense! I am always working to expand my leadership ‘tool box’. I apply different leadership approaches aligned with what might work best in a particular situation. I have had several mentors, and learn a lot from management literature such as The Corner Office in the Sunday New York Times. I’m always looking for CEO insights from a range of industries.
What are the challenges in steering the operations and policies of a medical school?
The portfolio I manage is large, including IT, HR, finance, communications, government relations, strategic planning, and governance. We are using a number of approaches borrowed from business and engineering to stay efficient and focused, such as project charter and project management tools. Luckily I work with an incredible group of people. The faculty and administrative professionals at Faculty of Medicine are truly top notch. So right now I am seeing more opportunities than challenges.
What excites you about this position?
Knowing that my work is fundamental to the university experience for students, faculty and staff. This year I am also a tutor for Med II Pro Comp – a role that I really enjoy.
Diane Gorsky joined the Faculty of Medicine in 2009 as Associate Dean, Operations and Policy. Prior to this, she held senior leadership positions in government, consulting and the life sciences sector. Hailing from Ontario, Diane completed her education at UofT, including an MBA from the Rotman School of Management.