Friday, October 2, 2009

I had the great honor of being asked to present, with two other colleagues, the 2009 Florence Nightingale and Dr. E. Codman Patient Safety Day Award This was the first time the award was presented and Dr. Lucian Leape was the recipient .

I joined John McCormack from Massachusetts and Becky Martins from Maine at the Harvard School of Public Health to meet with Dr. Leape. Many of us know Dr. Leape as the “Grandfather” of patient safety. He led the landmark study released in November 1999 “To Err is Human, Building a Safer Health System”. This study reported that as many as 98,000 people die each year in hospitals from preventable medical errors. The release of the IOM report gave many patient safety advocates credibility in our call for change.

Patient Safety Day, held each year on July 25th is a time to remember those who have been harmed by their medical care. This is done by lighting a candle at noon and 6:00 PM and sharing a moment of silence. In New York, we have held sharing circles, speaker programs and very solemn moments over the years. It is after all, the chance to remember why we do this work.

Dr. Leape is a charming man with eyes that light up and a laugh that touches the soul. He is such a gentle and charming man. But, when he talks about patient safety, he has serious moments. Moments that make me wonder what is really twirling around in that brilliant mind of his.

I asked Dr. Leape what he would say to the advocates across the nation if he were to whisper in our ear what we should do to make change. He said to continue to push for transparency. I too
agree that we need to talk about a problem if we were ever to fix it. To make change of a problem, first you have to acknowledge it.

Following our meeting and award presentation to Dr. Leape we met up with Tanya. Tanya is from New Hampshire and a PhD candidate going to the University of Massachusetts Medical School. We have one thing in common besides our passion for patient safety. Tanya lost her 4 year old son following a tonsillectomy. Tanya didn’t know people can die from tonsillectomies. I too didn’t know. Unfortunately, too many people just don’t know. If we talk about the problem, we can address it. Dr. Leape addresses it.

Congratulations on your well deserved award Dr. Leape.

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