Dennis Lessard Dennis Lessard
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Clinical Research and Leadership

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Department: Clinical Research and Leadership



Dr. Dennis J. Lessard accumulated a broad spectrum of teaching and professional experience to share. He management experience includes over forty years of leadership, managerial and operational expertise within corporate, government and academia organizations. He has specialized background in aviation, human factors, failure analysis, resource management, and systems risk management. Dr. Lessard has had the opportunity to lead and manage at various levels, and has been successful at reorganizations, skills assessment, team building, and program development in multi-faceted organizations including those with international components.

At United, Dr. Lessard flew as Captain and served in Airline Senior Management. He flew DC10-10’s, Boeing 737-300’s and both the Airbus 319’s and 320’s. Of interest, he was Captain of an enroute flight between Phoenix and Los Angeles on the morning of 09/11/2001, the last airplane to land at LAX on that morning.  Dr. Lessard also served as Corporate Manager of Flight Safety at United World Headquarters in Chicago  responsible for risk programs, investigations (major accidents at Honolulu, Sioux City and Colorado Springs) and airport inspections worldwide. He served as Executive Assistant to both the Vice President/System Chief Pilot and the Senior Vice President of Flight Operations at United World Headquarters in Chicago; and, then served as Assistant Chief Pilot in Los Angeles.



Dr. Lessard’s research interests include human factors assessment, team resource management and risk management programs. He has been recognized for his expertise and consults cross functionally with healthcare organizations identifying aviation safety program crew/team resource management human factors benchmarks that would apply to operating room teams to reduce risks in surgical procedures. He has lectured on his research and has contributed articles for publication including in the Safety Newsletter of The Joint Hospital Accreditation Commission.

Role and Discipline Relationships in a Transdisciplinary Biomedical Team: Structuration, Values Override, and Context Scaffolding

Though accepted that “team science is needed to tackle and conquer the health problems that are plaguing our society” (Disis & Slattery 2010) significant empirical evidence of team mechanisms and functional dynamics is still lacking. Through grounded methods (Borner, K et al. 2010) the relationship between scientific  disciplines and team roles was observed in a National Institutes of Health-funded (NIH) research consortium.  Interviews and the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) (Cameron & Quinn 2006) were employed. Findings show strong role and discipline idiosyncrasies that when viewed separately provide different insights into team functioning and change receptivity. When considered simultaneously, value-latent characteristics emerged showing self-perceived contributions to the team. This micro/meso analysis suggests that individual participation in team level interactions can inform the structuration of roles and disciplines in an attempt to tackle macro level problems.

Keywords. Transdisciplinary, role, biomedical team, structuration, values, scaffolding, culture, organizational assessment, qualitative

A Dynamical Approach Toward Understanding Mechanisms of Team Science: Change, Kinship, Tension, and Heritage in a Transdisciplinary Team

 Since the concept of team science gained recognition amongst biomedical researchers, social scientists have been challenged with investigating evidence of team mechanisms and functional dynamics within transdisciplinary teams. Identification of these mechanisms that has lacked substantial research using grounded theory models to adequately describe their dynamical qualities. Research trends continue to favor the measurement of teams by isolating occurrences of production over relational mechanistic team tendencies. This study uses a social constructionist grounded multilevel mixed methods approach to identify social dynamics and mechanisms within a transdisciplinary team. A National Institutes of Health-funded research team served as a sample.  Data from observations, interviews, and focus groups were qualitatively coded to generate micro/meso level analyses.  Social mechanisms operative within this biomedical scientific team were identified. Dynamics that support such mechanisms were documented and explored. Through theoretical and emergent coding, four social mechanisms dominated in the analysis—change, kinship, tension, and heritage. Each contains relational social dynamics. This micro/meso level study suggests such mechanisms and dynamics are key features of team science and as such can inform problems of integration, praxis, and engagement in teams.

Keywords: Team Science, Transdisciplinary, Social Mechanisms, Social Dynamics, Cross Disciplinary Teams

Complexity Leadership in Transdisciplinary (TD) Learning Environments: A Knowledge Feedback Loop

The conception that leadership is the activity of individual actors is challenged by a more dynamic approach that regards leadership as processes that influence organizations. This influence is a catalyst in the creation of new knowledge especially in environments where innovation is a key characteristic. The purpose of this paper is to suggest a model grounded in the complex adaptive systems (CAS) within transdisciplinary (TD) settings and to highlight the dynamic mechanisms that allow for emergent new knowledge informed by complexity leadership theory (CLT). The theoretical model provided presumes i) a context of TD; ii) leadership as an agentic process; iii) entanglement as a fundamental leadership function in CAS;
iv) multi-level interventions; and v) a proposed knowledge feedback loop that serves as a driver for continual renewal to the adaptive system.


Dr. Lessard is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor of Clinical Research and Leadership at The George Washington University. He also has academia experience as School Dean, Program Chair and Instructor, mentoring students in online programs; and, in the classroom from recent graduates through adult lifelong learners in degree programs ranging from undergraduate through doctoral. He has been recognized by Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers; and, is a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education and, Delta Mu Delta, the International Honor Society of Business Administration.


Industry Relationships and Collaborations

This faculty member (or a member of their immediate family) has reported a financial interest with the health care related companies listed below. These relations have been reported to the University and, when appropriate, management plans are in place to address potential conflicts.