President's Perspective

The Excitement of the New Academic Year 

For most people, the new year starts in January. For me, the new year starts in September with the arrival of a new cohort of students who are committed to changing the world.  

As a life-long academic, I have come to enjoy the same level of excitement at the beginning of the school year that people have on New Year’s Eve. Thoughts of a new beginning brings the opportunity to improve on things that I have done in the past and start new behaviors that will make me healthier, more organized, and a better leader.  

It seems like just yesterday that we launched 612 graduating students into the health care professions at both a challenging and exciting time. Challenging because of the workforce shortages we are seeing on clinical units that are resulting in additional physical and emotional stress for providers. Exciting because we are finally facing up to the real issues in healthcare related to cost, quality, and access with tangible interventions that are being put in place to address these long-standing inequities. Like much of society, health care is undergoing a transformation and our graduates are ready to participate and, in many cases, lead that change.   

On September 6, we will welcome 324 new students in Genetic Counseling, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Physician Assistant Studies, Health Professions Education, Health Administration, Healthcare Data Analytics, and several new and existing programs in the School of Nursing. All are arriving for one important reason – to engage in an exceptional educational experience that will prepare them to be leaders in health care.  Their choice to attend the IHP signals their commitment to a focused approach to health professions education that has interprofessional practice at its core.   

This year feels different than the last two fall semesters that were overshadowed by the planning and adjustments necessitated by the pandemic. While we will still continue some of the guidance that kept the IHP open and safe during the past 30 months, we will move further away from the acute phase of the pandemic with fewer restrictions on group gatherings, approaches to course delivery, and clinical practice experiences. 

This frees up our community to take part in activities we’ve been unable to have. Just last week, Jack Gormley, Ronan Campbell and I joined a group of students, faculty, staff, and an alum for a Red Sox game. Even though the Sox lost, engaging with everyone at Fenway made for a great evening. For the first time in two years, our Community Impact Day will be in person with small groups of interprofessional students providing community service in Charlestown. And during Welcome Week in September, we will have our first, in-person, Student Town Hall since the start of the pandemic where students will get to meet members of the President’s Cabinet, hear about their role at the IHP, and ask questions of IHP senior leadership.   

Our commitment to the safety and health is unwavering. We are continuing the level of cleaning and disinfecting that we initiated at the start of the pandemic and will continuing to provide the necessary PPE for all members of the IHP community. We will continue to follow the guidance found in Commit @ IHP and hold ourselves accountable to do what is necessary to protect ourselves and our community against the spread of Covid-19 because the pandemic is not completely behind us.   

On behalf of the faculty and staff of the IHP, we welcome each of our new students to their respective programs and wish them a very successful academic experience. Before we know it, we will be congratulating each of them on their graduation and launching them into the world of health care. The time sure goes by fast.   

The 2021-2022 Academic Year in Review 

As I sat down to contemplate the past academic year, with its highlights and low lights, I can hardly believe all the change that we have endured. There have been plenty of transitions, a substantiative move toward growth in our academic programs, and progress on JEDI goals and competencies. I want to share with you some of, but certainly not all, the significant events of the 2021-2022 academic year.   

While many things happened at the IHP over the last year, overlaying it all has been the continuation of COVID-19, a pandemic with a non-linear progression that has thrown uncertainty and unending influence into the lives of each one of us. 

We had some encouraging months last summer when the positivity rate was low, allowing for an escape from isolation and an occasional group activity or event. But when the fall semester began, the positivity rate increased, and we returned to Zoom meetings and the postponement of in-person activities. When spring began, COVID positivity dropped but it was only a tease because by May, our masks were back on when the positivity rate jumped up again,  

During the past year, we welcomed several new people in senior leadership positions. In July 2021, Dr. Ken White assumed the role of Dean of the School of Nursing. Ken came to us from the University of Virginia School of Nursing where he was the Associate Dean for Strategic Partnerships and is the current President of the American Academy of Nursing. In February 2022, Sean Hennessey joined us as Chief Communications Officer. Sean has brought new energy to the Office of Strategic Communications and is beginning to tell the IHP story successfully to the external community. He has rounded out his office hiring Kate Chaney and Carolyn Barrett to provide more coverage of our nursing and health and rehabilitation sciences schools, along with student accomplishments, research, and faculty expertise. And in March, we announced that Dr. Reamer Bushardt will be joining the IHP as our second academic Provost in August. All three of these leadership positions have and will shape the future of the IHP, and we are lucky to welcome these additions to our community. 

In September, January, and May, we welcomed new cohorts of students into all our programs, eager to take the first step of their journey to become, or advance in their role as, health professionals. The arrival of these new classes is always an exciting time for the IHP. Each class brings a renewed optimism about the future of health care delivery and the role the IHP can play in leading important change and improving access and care for the most vulnerable and marginalized people.    

We spent significant time working to rebuild our community and reintroduce the joy of working together, in person, as a team. One of the first events we held when we could gather was a retreat for senior leaders that focused on leadership. The room was electric because this was the first retreat bringing these leaders together since January 2020. The program was so well received that we decided to repeat it twice more for staff, who welcomed the sessions with equal enthusiasm.  

The president’s office sponsored several activities including food trucks and our Holiday Celebration which was postponed from December until April. Our 1st Annual IHP Cornhole Tournament fell victim to COVID and has been postponed until September 14 – so mark your calendars. During this year, in-person classes were the norm for most, in-person faculty meetings resumed for some, and several of our educational seminars were held in person. Employee Appreciation Week was well received by faculty and staff and the lunch event culminating the week was one of the best ever – the engagement, the connections, the excitement, and the joy were all palpable. 

This academic year also saw the IHP continuing to build our on-campus services for students, staff and faculty. We committed to the development of the Wellness Council and its work in improving the lives of the members of our community. Out of that came our commitment to Mental Health First Aid - which has been a very successful and highly subscribed program for faculty, staff, and students on addressing mental health issues on campus - and the launch of the Community Pantry in April, which addresses food insecurity by providing nonperishable food and personal care products. We look forward to more work from that council in the years to come.        

Our growth initiatives have slowly started to launch and the major work of making that happen occurred during this year. Curricula were defined, courses were developed, and faculty and staff were hired. Our reorganizing of CIPSE and CPD into our new School of Health Care Leadership will position both areas as integral elements of the leadership curricula and support their future growth. Our new Education Collaborative Incentive Plan was launched and we are excited to work closely with Mass General Brigham in supporting the professional development of its 80,000 employees.   

In June, we began saying our good-byes to an integral member of our community. Provost Alex Johnson’s last on campus day is June 30, at which time he will begin a well-deserved retirement. Alex has served the IHP with distinction over the last 14 years and we wanted him to know how much we cared about him as he leaves his role. About three weeks ago, we had a lovely celebration with the IHP community where his colleagues got to wish him well. Two weeks ago, we dedicated the Alex F. Johnson Academic Conference Room in the Shouse Building and unveiled a beautiful portrait of Alex. It was fitting that we named this room after Alex since he has made so many contributions to our academic programs. We know that the Alex F. Johnson Academic Conference Room will be the place where new academic ideas are born, innovations are created, and academic problems are solved – the very issues Alex successfully worked on as the IHP’s first academic provost. And just a week ago, with his family, friends, and colleagues, we celebrated Alex’s transition to retirement and gave him an IHP armchair with his name and dates of appointment. Alex will be missed but his legacy will have a lasting impact on the IHP.   

As I think about the past year, I reflect on the many sacrifices our IHP community members have made to assure that we provide the excellent academic experience our students are expecting. I know so many of you are still working through the impact of COVID on you and your family. Your role in the family may have changed and the way your family functions might be different than it was 2 ½ years ago. Through it all, you have been committed, engaged, and focused on our mission. My heartfelt thanks go out to each of you. Let’s look forward to an even better 2022-2023 academic year.

June 24, 2022: Roe v. Wade Ruling

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case is a crushing disappointment on several levels, not the least of which is that it will set women back financially, academically, and professionally. No amount of justification will ever get around that reality.  

In health care, we often talk about the paradox of how one’s zip code defines their life expectancy. We have recognized the absurdity of this, and health care providers are working hard to mitigate the effect of local environment on health.  The overturning of Roe v Wade doubles down on the impact of zip code on health and well-being – in this case just for women, particularly low-income women, and their right to define their future.  

The reversal will return women to the 1970’s when safe abortion was only available to young women with means or access to a provider who would perform such a procedure out of their scope of practice.  This decision will not limit safe and effective abortions for those women; it will limit abortions for low income or isolated women living in the 26 states that now have the legal freedom to ban abortions.  These are women who don’t have the money to travel to a state where abortion is legal or the emotional resources to make that trip.

Fifty years ago, when abortion became legal, women’s lives were dramatically changed for the better. Abortion care came out of the back rooms and was delivered in safe and supportive environments. Women were free to follow their life goals and aspirations without the lifetime burden of an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. 

The economic toll on women (not the male partner) with such a pregnancy has been clearly defined. Consider the following: 

  • In a study of 1,000 pregnant women over five years, women unable to get an abortion had financial challenges including a 78 percent increase in unpaid bills and an 81 percent increase in issues like bankruptcies and evictions, compared with the women who were able to get an abortion (Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at University of California San Francisco)
  • Abortion restrictions already on the books in states reduce the number of working women and cost the nation’s economy an estimated $105 billion a year (Institute for Women’s Policy Research)

As a young public health nurse, one of my professors shared a poem about a community whose residents kept falling off a small cliff and getting hurt. Instead of building a fence at the cliff to prevent people from falling, town leaders decided to put an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to take people who fell to the hospital.  I tend to look at health care problems from a lens of prevention.  What can we do so that we don’t have the problem to solve?  

Repealing a woman’s right to choose is hardly the answer. 

We need to help, support, and empower young women to have easy access to birth control.  We need to support pharmaceutical research on birth control methods that don’t have side effects - and that can be the responsibility of both men and women.  

All women who find themselves in this most vulnerable position need access to abortions provided by health care providers in safe and supportive environments. When a woman finds she has an unwanted pregnancy, we need structures and models to help her decide thoughtfully and quickly, so she avoids the emotional trauma of late-term abortions.

We need to recognize a women’s right to choose her path in life is absolute and that includes her right to choose her reproductive path.  We must continue to advocate for full reproductive rights in all states and for all women, not just for those who have the economic resources to define their future.  

May 25, 2022: Thoughts on the Texas School Shooting

Horror. Shock. Outrage. 

Emotions we’ve experienced too many times after a mass shooting in this country. Sadly, here we are again.

This time, children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas were in the crosshairs. Nineteen of them. Nineteen desks that are empty today. Nineteen beds that will be empty tonight. Nineteen families – and those of the two teachers killed – absolutely devastated. 

When does it end? What must happen in the United States for our country to enact meaningful gun reform? How many more children must die in the classroom, the very sanctuary where they should feel safe? As the grandmother of a 7- and 9-year-old, my heart breaks for those families and that community.  

Gun violence is a public health issue and has been for far too long. The American Public Health Association says guns kill more than 38,000 people a year and is the leading cause of premature death. Think about that. 

Once again, this is a time for empathy, a time to lend support and prayers and a shoulder to cry on for those whose lives will never be the same. But it’s also a time for action, a time to do better by tightening background checks and taking away the ability for someone to buy a semi-automatic weapon. The gunman in yesterday’s school shooting had a handgun and an AR-15 assault weapon. 

Yesterday’s massacre was both predictable and preventable. If the 2012 horror of Sandy Hook wasn’t enough, perhaps this massacre will be. Let’s work toward a day when parents who send their child to school don’t have to suffer the horror being experienced by the families in Uvalde. For the sake of our children – and our country – it needs to happen. 

May 2022: The Excitement and Joy of Returning to In-Person Commencement

It is that time of year again. The days are getting longer, the weather is showing signs of warming, and the excitement of Commencement is in the air.  

This year, there is more excitement than usual. After two years of having to launch our amazing graduates off into their respective careers virtually, the IHP will be hosting our first in-person commencement and we could not be more pleased. We will get to formally congratulate each student as they walk across the stage. We will get to meet their family and friends who have shared in this journey with them, and, we will get to recognize and honor their accomplishments, perseverance, and resilience as they navigated one of the hardest times to be a student in our 45-year history. This pandemic has made us grateful for some things we often took for granted, and being able to celebrate the Class of 2022 in person is a gift to each of us and one that will be long remembered.

As I think about the 612 graduates who will be receiving their diplomas on May 13 at the Boston Conference and Exhibition Center, it’s about how so many of them began either right before or during the pandemic. In both cases, they were entering health care at a time when so much was uncertain and most healthcare providers faced unprecedented challenges. While providers were seen as “health care heroes,” we all recognized the stress they were under caring for seriously ill patients plus the anxiety of caring for their family and themselves. I am so impressed with the bravery and courage each student exhibited as they came to campus for clinical practice, donned their PPE to go to clinical settings, and experienced new ways of learning and engaging with their faculty, classmates, and the IHP community.

Each graduate has their own story to tell – of the fear of an unknown virus, of the anxiety about going into the clinical setting, of the frustration of not being able to come to campus to meet with colleagues and friends. But the story I hope each graduate remembers the most is the incredible success they achieved when faced with this adversity. The story of resilience when so many things were changing so very fast and how they persevered to reach their goal. The story of relationships they built and nurtured over Zoom and the excitement of meeting in person for the first time once we were allowed out of quarantine. 

It will be important to remember the good and joyous experiences of the last few years. Our graduates didn’t let anything get in their way of finishing their degree, including a once-in-a-century pandemic. They should be so proud of what they have accomplished.   

Because of the pandemic, the IHP had to hold commencement ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021 virtually. The virtual commencements were lovely events, and we really got to learn about each member of the respective graduating class because each one had an individual slide that told a little about them. These graduate also were courageous, resilient, and goal oriented. However, we were unsatisfied with sending them off in an unceremonial way so on May 21, we have invited members of both classes to join us for a reception in their honor. We are so looking forward to welcoming them back to campus and giving them the joy of interacting with their peers and their faculty, just as they would have done if they had an in-person commencement event. We recognize the importance of ceremonies and the opportunity to celebrate one’s accomplishments.  Although it’s later than we would have liked, we are looking forward to just as meaningful a celebration with them.  

To all the graduates around the world who are getting ready to make their mark in the world, I offer my congratulation and best wishes for a successful, productive, and impactful career.

March 2022: Supporting the People of Ukraine

Last week, the world became a more dangerous place. As Russia made an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine for the sole purpose of acquiring more territory, the world’s population became exposed to the impact of leaders who are not driven by what’s good for their people but are motivated by their own power. The suffering and despair brings to mind our roles as healers and helpers – no matter the geography or political persuasion.

As I listened to the news of the attacks on the Ukrainian people, I was horrified by what the Ukrainian people are going through - hiding in the subways to escape air attacks, fleeing homes and communities to countries where they don’t know anyone or have any history, while taking up arms and standing up to their invaders. The Ukrainians are fighting for their right to be a sovereign nation of free people.

I am old enough to remember several wars during my lifetime. Perhaps because I’m older now and these atrocities tend to weigh heavy on my mind, or maybe because the 24-hour news cycle allows me to see every detail of every incident, the events of the last week have been particularly troubling. I think about the families, the elderly, the children, the sick, and those who have so little. And I think of the men, ages 18 to 60, who are conscripted into war - leaving their wives and children to escape the country alone.

Before this terrible series of events, the chasm between the Ukrainian and American people seemed vast. If you didn’t have someone in your family who was Ukrainian or you didn’t have Ukrainian friends, the country and the people were a world away. Today, as we watch their plight, I feel like they are right around the corner. I feel their pain and want to do what I can to minimize their anguish.

As the world was watching the invasion, life in the United States was going on unabated. People were working and children were in school. I was in the office where I read a guest editorial in the Journal of Nursing Education written by a colleague and friend, Suzanne Miyamoto. Dr. Miyamoto was talking about her career in health policy and how, when she started, her students really didn’t like that subject because they really wanted more time learning in clinical practice. But she has seen a change – students now want to understand how government works; there is a greater interest in policy and the role of the health professional in advocacy. Just last week, I heard how Communication Sciences and Disorders students Laura Nagy, Adrienne Rau, Annika Canta, Emma Wyatt, and Rainy Sun advocated for a change in regulatory health policy with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

Our understanding of health policy and advocacy for the marginalized, underserved, and impoverished has never been more important than it is now. These are people whom we might not ever see in person and may seem a world away from our daily practice, but they are really right around the corner and in need of our advocacy and support. Dr. Miyamoto said the “power of one becomes the power to influence many.” Each of us has that power to wield influence as a policy activist and the potential to make our communities, our country, and the world a better place where the just win out.

Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people and we honor their resolve to fight for what they believe in. Let’s also remember the anguished, the suffering, and the hopeless here in our own country, right around the corner. Let’s keep in mind that we can make a difference in so many lives by being the Power of One. Let’s also pray that the just win out in Ukraine.

January 2022: A Message for the New Year

As we close out 2021 and begin 2022, I was hoping we could be celebrating a very different entrance into the new year. I was anticipating we would be coming to the end of the pandemic with people having the freedom to enjoy each other’s company. And while this was not to be the case this holiday season, we continue to face the challenges that are put before us and make the most out of what is not always the best of situations. This is what we do as health care providers and this is what we do as the IHP community.  

A perfect example of this can be seen in the many successes that we, as a community, experienced during one of the hardest years in the life of most academic institutions. We welcomed 664 students who chose to enter the complexities of health care to improve the lives of others. Students in all of our professional disciplines joined the IHP with the courage to participate in classes and engage in clinical practice at a time when health care delivery is so difficult. Their choice to embrace this challenge is a testament of their commitment to their profession.  

We also were successful in living the tenets of the Commit @ IHP program. While we have had an occasional cluster of positive Covid cases, there has not been a campus-wide spread which allowed us to keep the campus open for in-person classes. Our students, faculty, and staff were selfless in working to keep our community safe by following the science, and we have seen the results.  

Thanks to the tenacity and sheer spirit of our faculty and staff, we continued to provide an exemplary education to our students and prepare them for a future we know will be challenging. How faculty continued to help our students learn in new ways and acquire new skills is very different than what was done before the pandemic. It allowed us to graduate almost all of our students on time and launch them into professions where the need for them continues to grow.  

Our research enterprise, begun just 10 years ago, continued to distinguish itself as it crossed over the $25 million mark in the size of its overall portfolio. Our researchers did not skip a beat in 2021, continuing their important work and securing new grants to help shape the way health care is provided.  

I recognize how incredibly hard every member of our community is working right now and the emotional and physical stresses each of you have endured over the last 22 months. So, while 2022 is not the start of a new year I thought we would be experiencing, I continue to be hopeful about our future.  I am inspired by our faculty who have never given up providing our stellar students with an excellent education. I am excited about the 94 new nursing students who in just a couple of weeks will join the IHP and take the brave step of studying to become a nurse, as well as the seven in the PhD in HPED and one in the Masters in HPEd programs who also will be starting to advance their careers. And I admire each member of the IHP community who continues to innovate and support each other while looking for the best in everyone every day.  

As many of you know, I am a glass half-full kind of person so I am seeing the new year through that lens. I am hopeful the pandemic finally begins to subside and create a new reality that allows us to reengage in activities that are so much a part of who we are at the IHP. I know we will work to keep each other safe, allowing our students to progress toward their chosen profession. And I know we will continue to support each other as we have done over the last two years. 

Wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful and healthy 2022.  


November 2021: Telling the IHP’s Story

The fall semester has been more reminiscent of those in the pre-COVID era with more students, faculty, and staff on campus and fewer classes being taught fully on Zoom. It has been great to see so many people in the Navy Yard. Thanks to all who have made these first two months such a success.   

Toward the end of September, we announced that the IHP was awarded Honor Roll status from Modern Think for the results of our Great Colleges to Work For (GCTWF) survey. The program recognizes colleges that have created successful workplaces, and to further research and understand the factors, dynamics, and influences that have the most impact on organizational culture in higher education. We were recognized as an Honor Roll recipient because we exceeded the average score in seven categories: Job Satisfaction and Support; Compensation and Benefits; Professional Development; Mission and Pride; Confidence in Senior Leadership; and Faculty Experience and Shared Governance. 

As part of the GCTWF survey, we gathered about 20 pages of narrative comments from you about what you appreciate most about working at the IHP and what would make it better. These comments were a treasure trove of information that has provided a framework for projects and programs that we need to consider in the coming year and beyond.

One topic from this survey and from other data collected over the past few years relates to the visibility of the IHP. The IHP is often described as Boston’s best-kept secret, but it’s not a secret to our community that recognizes the incredible contributions of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni to the greater Boston community through service, the Sanders IMPACT Practice Center, and the leadership of our faculty in shaping health care delivery through scholarship and practice. One just need look at the IHP News to see examples of how we’re addressing health care challenges and building our culture. Our ability to engage individuals in the achievement of our mission, whether they be students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, donors, and others, is dependent on our ability to be recognized and valued for the many accomplishments of the IHP community.  

In August, I shared with you that we were restructuring the Communications department to support our goals of increased visibility and improved external messaging. Over the last two months, we have launched a search for the position of Chief Communications Officer (CCO). We expect to have this position filled before the end of the calendar year. The new CCO will add a public relations staff member to complement the work currently being done. As we grow and evolve our communications strategy, we may need additional staff to assist with achieving our goals and we will address those needs as they arise.  

I have hired consultant Rich Copp, former vice president of communications at MGB who has more than 20 years of experience in health care communications, to help us think through the right structure and governance and to develop a strategic plan. Rich will be talking to many key stakeholders to get the full picture of our community with the goal of ensuring the new CCO can start in the strongest position possible.

I want you to know that your messages to the administration are considered carefully. When you take the time to provide a comment or fill out a survey, senior leaders know they have a responsibility to review your views and perspectives. We are committed to developing a communications strategy that brings the IHP into the spotlight, not only within the MGB system but externally as well.  

In closing, I wish you and your loved ones a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving holiday.    


September 2021: The Start of a New Academic Year, and a Look Back at the Past 18 Months

This is always a really exciting time of year. Last Sunday, we launched 583 new graduates who will go on to improve the quality of health care through their clinical practice, research, or education of others. And while we could not do this in person as we would have hoped, we were able to recognize each graduate and honor their many accomplishments through a virtual commencement. It was great to hear our student speaker, John Paul Bonadonna, speak about his IHP journey and his commitment to the underserved. We awarded an honorary doctorate to Ann Caldwell, who was president from 1997–2007, and alumni awards to Tesiah Coleman, MSN ’19, and Melissa Agrimanakis, DPT ’10. I loved seeing the pictures of our students in all their graduation glory, and the thank-you messages they sent out to their family, friends, and their faculty. If you could not make it to the virtual August 29 event, please take time to read more details and watch the video. 

We also have the pleasure of welcoming 347 new students in our School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, School of Nursing, and Center for Interprofessional Studies and Innovation. Most of these students come to us after having made the bold and courageous decision to jump into the world of health care at a time when the work is particularly hard, both physically and emotionally. I believe this new cohort has been emboldened by those challenges. They have seen the need and are taking the steps to join the fight. I love their confidence and their interest in shaping the next generation of health care practitioners. 

While the focus of September is always about the new academic year, I’ve been thinking about all we have been through together over the last 18 months. Our faculty and staff have risen to the challenge of innovating pedagogy to give our students an exceptional education. Our researchers have been super-productive, and we have crossed the $25 million mark in our total grant portfolio. The ENRiCH Steering Committee did not skip a beat in its planning, and the IHP will open its third school, the School of Health Care Leadership, in January. We hired a new dean of the School of Nursing, Dr. Ken White, and Dr. Pat Reidy and her team received a HRSA grant that will support increasing the number of psychiatric nurse practitioners. We have studied our approaches to education, and our faculty, like Rebecca Inzana, have received a grant to do this work. We surveyed our faculty and staff through Modern Think and the Great Colleges to Work For process and improved in almost all areas of assessment, and we began working on a plan for those few areas where we did not improve.   

We have struggled with the hard questions and issues around racial justice and equity, and we have worked at increasing our knowledge and our understanding of the experiences of our Black and brown colleagues. For the first time since its inception in 2018, the JEDI Office has a full staff to facilitate this work and support our community on its journey of becoming an inclusive community for all. 

Last year, we honored the SGA leadership, particularly Alejandra Luna, for the impactful work students do in support of the IHP and the greater Boston community. I look forward to working with Swarna Gummadi and the 2021–2022 SGA Board in building on that work and supporting the development of student leaders at the IHP.   

I could go on and on. Each of you has made the last 18 months exceptional. The academic program leadership, faculty, and staff and the administrative support departments are responsible for much of this success. I know this next transition of the return to campus will be challenging and stressful for many, but I am confident we will take on this challenge with the same spirit we have exercised throughout the last 18 months.   

I wish you a productive and joyous semester.   


July 2021: A Time to Take Care of Ourselves

On June 26, the IHP community was drawn into the aftermath of a horrific event that shook us to our core. The shooting deaths of Ramona Cooper and David Green, two Black individuals who gave so much of themselves to their communities, along with the killer’s racist and antisemitic writings, forced us to grapple with issues in a very personal and raw way.  

This event comes at a time when we have endured 16 months of a global pandemic where we lost family, friends, and loved ones. During this time, many of us lost a piece of ourselves as we were forced to cut ourselves off from family, friends, and our social network. The Winthrop shooting comes at a time when we are struggling individually, collectively, and institutionally with issues of systemic racism and social justice as exemplified by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and so many other Black men and women. And it comes at a time when each of us has little reserve to deal with the anger, frustration, fear, and uncertainty of these senseless deaths as well the increase of hate crimes targeting a number of historically marginalized communities. 

I have spent the past ten days listening to individuals and groups about their perceptions of this recent shared tragedy. There are things in our community we can control and can intentionally work at improving. As I have said many times, we have a responsibility to identify these areas where we need to make change and work toward that change. We have begun that journey and recognize that we have far to go.  

Over the last 16 months, we have talked about the importance of self-care and resilience as we face this onslaught of challenges. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. Resilience won’t keep you from feeling distress in the face of adversity, but it will help you identify areas over which you have control and can modify your behavior. It will help you grow in the face of difficult circumstances. We build resilience over time and through intentional behaviors.   

As we try to process what happened in Winthrop a week and a half ago, it can feel as if we are in a state of perpetual recovery, managing a series of difficult events. This prolonged state of stress requires us to vigilantly manage our own self-care and assist others in their care as we are able. It requires us all to go a little easier on ourselves, be kind to others, and seek out activities that bring us joy whenever we can. It is my sincere hope you find some peace over the remainder of the summer.  

June 2021: In Celebration of May

May is always an interesting month. We finally start seeing the changes in weather that is heralding the coming of summer. We always have a group of students that have come to the end of their academic programs and we work to launch them into their chosen careers. Our amazing faculty and staff take a deep breath and look forward to a somewhat slower time for some and the excitement of a new class of students for others. And we welcomed a new group of 90 ABSN students to the IHP who are ready and excited to begin their program on the path to join the nursing profession. May is always an exciting month for those of us at the IHP.

But this May was spectacular. After 14 months of pandemic worry and fear leading to social isolation for many of us, we have begun to see opportunities for resuming somewhat of a normal life. With the nice weather came the ability to be outside where we know social interaction is far safer. Rules for indoor gatherings were loosened and people have started to travel again. The Navy Yard has come alive with visitors to the USS Constitution and the Freedom Trail. Our clinical partners, no longer feeling the crush of COVID admissions, are welcoming our students back into their clinical agencies. Unlike last year, we are having in-person, end-of-program celebrations for each of our disciplines to provide our graduates the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with their classmates. Our IHP community is slowly returning to campus to prepare for more on-campus activity in the fall. The campus is starting to come alive again. 

May was also spectacular because we received approval from the IHP Board of Trustees and the MGH Board of Trustees to add a new School of Health Care Leadership (SHCL), launch several new academic programs, and expand our Continuing Professional Development Department. Two new programs that will be part of the SHCL are a Master of Health Administration (MHA) in Leadership and a Master of Science (MS) in Health Care Digital Analytics. Two additional programs that were approved in the School of Nursing are a MS in Nursing Education and a MS in Nursing Leadership. With these approvals comes our ability to launch these on-line, part-time programs that will be transformational for the IHP as we go into the future. We will be adding new disciplines to our interprofessional education models and expanding our ability to think through complex health care problems from several more perspectives. We will be expanding our brand beyond the traditional health professions and growing the IHP student base to allow for greater economies of scale. As I said, May was a very exciting month!

As I write this on the very last day of May, Memorial Day, I think about all those men and women who gave their lives for our country so that we can have the freedoms that we live with today. The freedom to question the aspects of our country that prevent all people from experiencing equity and inclusion. The freedom to have conversations that take people out of their comfort zone to open their eyes about new ways of thinking and believing. The freedom to recognize past injustices perpetrated on our Black and Brown communities and work toward creating a better future. And while we have miles to go to improve our imperfect country, our imperfect people, and our imperfect community, I am grateful for the lives of those men and woman whom we celebrated on Memorial Day.

I hope you have a joyous summer filled with opportunities to reconnect with family, friends, and the things you have missed doing. Continue to stay safe and practice those behaviors that served you well during the pandemic: hand hygiene, social distancing, and masks at times when needed, including while on campus as we continue to adhere to the Commit @ IHP guidelines. We can still get back to our lives while being safe.  

May 2021: On Student Leadership

I have always felt blessed to spend most of my adult life in academia. I love the opportunity to have deep and meaningful conversations with colleagues. I enjoy seeing the intellectual curiosity of the faculty and how they impart that to their students, and I love that each year consists of different periods that have totally different feelings. 

Right now, I am seeing the joy in our students who have achieved something so remarkable as finishing their programs in spite of the adversity they have experienced over the last year. They persevered, they committed to their education and they didn’t let the biggest challenge of our lives stand in their way. They made it and I can’t be prouder of the resilience of each and every student graduating from the IHP in 2021. 

I also feel that just a little weight is being lifted off our faculty and staff. I know some of that feeling comes from a combination of coming out of a long, cold winter and the easing up of COVID restrictions. But the real reason for their joy at this time of year is seeing the results of their work in the growth and development of our students. I remember my years as a faculty member and being so excited for the students who had a lifetime of opportunities open to them as a health professional. I wondered where their profession would take them, and I hoped they felt as proud of being a health professional as I did in my career. At this time of year, I know our faculty and staff are feeling that joy. 

This time of year also brings the rites of passage that I love and are so much a part of the academy. And while COVID has prevented us from engaging in all those important ceremonies, I am so pleased we were able to figure out a way to have some in-person events and others by Zoom.  Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Genetic Counseling honors program event where they were celebrating the students in the very first graduating class. The event was so moving and inspirational. This was the first time they were together since the onset of the pandemic and the program’s faculty, staff, and students shared the opportunity to celebrate each graduate. Student speaker Gabriella Raffaele spoke of how she overcame the challenges that COVID raised and the importance of her classmates to her success. She shared her commitment to improving the lives of the people she would care for. I am sure so many students graduating in the next couple of months share her sentiments.   

Our students and graduates have taken on the charge to improve the lives of the people they serve and lead in transforming the systems of care for the benefit of the community. I have always believed that academia should be the training ground for students to develop as leaders. Leadership experiences are as important to their development as a health care professional as the clinical skills they learn in their respective program. Last month, we celebrated IHP student leaders at the Student Leaders Appreciation and Award event hosted by the Office of Student and Alumni Services. It was a wonderful tribute to our student leaders, recognizing them for their work as leaders in issues related to social justice, mental health, professional development, community outreach and so many more. Our Student Government leaders, Alejandra Luna, Alyx Vogel, Olivia Rotelle, and Swarna Gummadi, were recognized for overcoming immense challenges in the face of COVID and their ability to keep the sense of community, to fundraise for important causes, and support the culture and growth of the IHP. Student leaders talked about their leadership experience as opening their eyes to the realization that we need to accept people as they come to us assuming that people are doing the very best they can at any given time. One student talked about how her leadership experience helped her to find her voice and through her voice, she made a difference on social justice issues. A third student talked about the believers, the achievers, and the leaders of the IHP justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) work.     

While several students were honored for their leadership at that event, I know there are leadership traits in all of our IHP students and graduates. Each student has an opportunity to develop those leadership skills over the course of their respective program. Each of our graduates can use these skills to change the world. Each fork in the road provides an opportunity to impact the community, the profession, and the patients they serve. 

April 20, 2021: : Chauvin Verdict a Step Toward a More Equitable and Just Future

Dear IHP Community: Justice has been served. I exhaled deeply and grew emotional as the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin was read. It has been a tremendously challenging year since George Floyd’s murder, a year in which the country has experienced a much-needed wake-up call on the systemic racism prevalent in our society. Our thoughts are with the Floyd family tonight as they continue to mourn the loss of their loved one.

Too often, we have seen a different ending to this story. An ending where Black Americans are innocently killed by police, who later face little or no consequences for their actions. We think of Breonna Taylor, and we think of countless other Black Americans who have died needlessly. The list is long, and it goes back many years.

As I stated last June, the Institute is taking concrete steps to address racial injustices that have persisted for far too long. Our commitment to equity and anti-oppressive practice serves as a pledge of our shared responsibility to challenge systemic barriers within our learning community and in the health care system.

We have much work to do, and I am glad that the Institute has begun the journey toward a more equitable and just future. Today, we stand with our Black colleagues in a collective sense of relief for the Chauvin verdict and in sadness for the loss of George Floyd.

April 2021: For Women, the March Toward Equality Continues

April 1 marks the end of 2021 Women’s History Month. During the past month, we have celebrated the sometimes-overlooked significant contributions of women in every segment of our society and reflected on the women who have contributed so much to our culture and development as a nation. 

In 2021, women have a lot to celebrate. Probably most historic, but long overdue, is that the country just elected its first woman vice president. We have increased the number of woman CEOs of Fortune 500 companies by 17 since 2018, and we just need to look at our MGB community to see the impact of women in health care. Women like MGB President and CEO Anne Klibanski, MGH Senior Vice President Ann Prestipino, and Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky (who also is a professor of medicine at MGH) have been the leaders through the challenges of this pandemic, and their leadership has provided us with the exceptional direction to weather this storm.  

While all have faced challenges over the last year, women have been disproportionally affected during this pandemic, a fact that is not visible to many. The downturn in the economy due to the pandemic has resulted in significant job loss for women. Since February of 2020, women accounted for 55% of the overall job loss. Women of color have felt the most significant impact of these changes in the economy. The unemployment rate for men in December of 2020 was 6.4%, while black women had an unemployment rate of 8.4%, and Latinas had an unemployment rate of 9.1%. 

One need only look at the role of women in society to know why we see this picture. Women make up the majority of the jobs in the hospitality and leisure sector and in the retail trades, the hardest-hit segments during the pandemic. In the United States, women have responsibility for the majority of childcare and family caregiving. In the pandemic, women left the workforce to care for ailing family members and children that were not in school or daycare. This inequity was highlighted by our own Dr. Tiffany Hogan and her colleagues in an article that describes the impact of the pandemic on women in academia in terms of their productivity and their ability to serve on committees. Much of this is related to the disproportionate responsibility for household chores and childcare that women assume. Will the number of women in the workforce come back post pandemic? There are questions about whether this will happen and when women will return to full employment.  

There are so many barriers to women having productive and impactful roles in the workforce. As a country, we don’t have an effective system of universal, affordable childcare that families can rely on. This means that when a child needs care, it’s still woman who most often will be impacted. While we have come far on the issue of pay equity, women still make just 82.3 cents for every dollar men make for the same level of work. That means women are paid 17.7% less than men, earning $10,157 on average per year less than men for the same work. And many employers still do not provide the flexibility needed to allow families to address their childrearing and family caregiving needs.  

This inequity is seen in all aspects of our society. As a women’s basketball fan, I was struck by the recent revelations that the woman playing in the NCAA’s March Madness tournament have few resources compared to their male counterparts. The women had inferior workout space, and instead of being tested for COVID with the PCR test, the gold standard for surveillance testing, they had daily antigen tests which are less reliable.   

The issue of equity for women is particularly relevant for the IHP. The professions that make up our academic programs are largely populated by women, some as high as 95%. Overall, 84% of our students and faculty are women. 

What can we do to support equity issues for women? As a country, we can support those actions that provide the necessary safety nets for women as they execute their role in society. I support the extension of the child tax credit that was included in the American Rescue Plan, as a way to help low- and middle-income families with the overwhelming cost of childcare. I support more investments in the availability of childcare for young children and after-school and summer programs for school-aged children. We need to continue to address issues of pay equity for women and allow for flexibility when needed in the workplace. 

As I think about all the incredible women who were honored last month for their many contributions to health care, racial equity, advances in science, and evolving our culture toward inclusion, I know we have come a long way, but I also know we have much further to go. I invite you to join me in working to create a society where gender equity is no longer an issue to be addressed.

March 2021: IHP Excellence and Innovation Continues

In the next few weeks, you will be receiving the IHP winter magazine. In my letter, I express that during this time of the COVID pandemic, the IHP is continuing to do the essential work to provide our students with an exemplary educational experience. At the same time, we have not stopped innovating and creating new models of education, growing our research enterprise, and developing new approaches to improving racial justice on campus and in our communities. You will read about some of these stories in the magazine but there is so much more to share.

The essential work of educating our exceptional students to provide leadership in health care has continued unabated. All of our programs provide most of their education online and spend some time on campus for clinical educational experiences that are best provided in person. Our faculty have thought critically about their curricula and expertly designed a model that meets the educational needs of the students while protecting our community. Our faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to get students the clinical experiences they need to complete their programs. The result is that almost all of our students will be graduating on time in August, and fully prepared to join a health care community that desperately needs their leadership.

One measure of our continued programmatic success is that our pass rates on licensure exams remains outstanding. Two examples: Last fall, the ABSN pass rate on the NCLEX was over 98% for first-time test takers, the highest for the School of Nursing. This spring, the PT program’s initial cohort of NPTE first-time exam takers have a 91.2% pass rate. All of this is evidence of our ability to provide and exceptional educational experiences in the face of one the most challenging times in the history of higher education.

One might think that during this pandemic, we would be satisfied with the excellence described above and pause our innovations related to the future of health care education, the development of knowledge, and in creating a just and equitable IHP. That is not at all the case. We continue our bold educational innovations in the development of a new School of Health Care Leadership with new master’s programs of study in digital analytics and health care leadership and management. In addition, recognizing the importance of lifelong learning for our alumni and all health professionals, we are expanding the scope of work in the Continuing Professional Development Office. We are also developing new models of clinical education and transforming the ways health professions clinical education will be delivered in the future. All of this work continued in earnest and progressed during the pandemic.

One of the bright lights in this pandemic has been the ability to continue and expand much of our research work being done by our faculty and our students. Our research portfolio continues to grow, and the number of research grants submitted by new investigators is an indication of our future growth.  Our contributions to shaping health care through research is critical.

In July of 2019, we launched the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and hired Dr. Kimberly Truong to be its inaugural Executive Director. Her work began pre-Covid but has expanded during the pandemic. Her office of one grew to two and is now a staff of four people helping each of us focus on both the organizational issues that impact our goal of creating an IHP free from bias and discrimination and developing a curriculum that supports student learning about issues of structural racism and inequities in health care. We recognize our goals will not be achieved quickly but we are committed to the work and measuring ourselves against defined goals.

And our community members continue to be recognized for this work. In the fall of 2019, Gayun Chan-Smutko, associate program director of Genetic Counseling, was among the inaugural recipients of National Society of Genetic Counselors Leadership for demonstrating leadership and/or exemplary achievements in dedication to diversity and inclusion efforts within the genetic counseling profession. And on February 26, nursing faculty Dr. Clara Gona, Dr. Abraham Ndiwane, Dr. Tomisin Olayinka, Prof. Kenya Palmer, Dr. Eleonor Pusey-Reid, and Dr. Kaveri Roy received the Leadership Award from the New England Regional Black Nurses Association for their work in helping the SON confirm its commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Our diversity and inclusion work continues, and we have the leadership in our community at the IHP who can help us be successful in making change.

This is just a small sample of the excitement that is all around us at the IHP and we look forward to a time when we safely can be together to celebrate all of these accomplishments. In the meantime, the work continues.

February 2021: A New Day with Some Old Problems

So many of us were grateful for the new beginning that occurred when President Joe Biden took the Oath of Office on January 20. We knew he was committed to doing the work needed to put an end to the pandemic, as well as address issues of access and equity in health care in our country. We were confident that he would address issues of social justice, climate change, and immigration. Both he and Dr. Jill Biden are deeply committed to higher education, reducing the debt burden of student loans, and improving access to the benefits of education for all. And while I am hopeful for the future, I recognize that there are systemic issues that have prevented change in health care, education, and immigration and equity for as long as I can remember.

Why has the richest, most powerful country in the world had such a weak response to the pandemic that has gripped us for the past year? Granted, most of us have never felt the weight of such a monumental assault on everything we know and all that we do. Yet, across the country, there was very little coordination of what worked and minimal sharing of information – both of which could have radically improved our overall national response. Those who are the most vulnerable, minority populations and the elderly, felt the deepest impact of the pandemic as a result of our inability to have a thoughtful, coordinated response. From my perspective, there were 50 independent states each doing their best, but ineffectively developing a plan to address a virus that was consuming us. I wondered why that was.  

When I entered health care, we had a strong public health delivery system. There were national goals that included one public health nurse for every 5,000 people in a community.

Most states had a public health infrastructure that included scientists, mostly epidemiologists, and providers who were part of a county health infrastructure. The members of the county health departments knew their community, knew how things worked, knew who could make thing happen, and were able to influence health through that structure. In many states, we no longer have a county government structure, and with the elimination of that structure went the elimination of the county health departments. Our state health departments are huge and lack the same connection with the community. Their work is critical, and their portfolio is vast. They are chronically underfunded, yet their responsibilities continue to grow.  These systemic problems in our public health system continue and realistically will not be solved overnight. It’s unfair to expect a new administration to make that happen. Yet, we have seen what a weak and failing public health infrastructure means when faced with a real crisis like a pandemic.  

And now, as we work to vaccinate our population from COVID-19, we once again appear unprepared for the magnitude of the project and are uncoordinated in our approach. With a few exceptions, there is little information that is really helpful to our community, and our models for providing access to the vaccine for the most vulnerable are not designed for them.

They are designed for people who spend a lot of time on a computer and know how to use programs that are fairly sophisticated. Last week, I spent hours on the website trying to enroll my 77-year old sister for a vaccination. She, like many others her age, could have never completed that enrollment form without help. 

How can we protect the public’s health if we make it impossible for the people who need the help the most with easy access the public health infrastructure? Are there places where there is success in vaccinating the population and what can we learn from those successes? Is it time to rebuild and re-energize our public health infrastructure in a way that can help coordinate care and improve access to our most vulnerable in the community?  

The pandemic has made me far more reflective about why things are the way they are. And while we have systems that perpetuate ineffective health care delivery, I find hope in our students. They come to us with a desire to make the world a better place, and they leave the IHP with the skills and confidence to accomplish that goal. They are willing to stand up for climate justice and social justice, are deeply committed to their professions, are determined to ending discrimination of those who have immigrated to our country, and have an overwhelming desire to improve health care for all. They can make a difference in the established structures; they are the ones who are creating the light at the end of the tunnel.  

January 2021: Goodbye to 2020 and Hello to a New Year  

There is something really powerful about the beginning of a new year and in some ways, the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 is even more powerful than most new years. 

In a usual new year, most of us will spend some time reflecting on the high and low points, thinking about ways in which we can become better people, and planning a new and improved vision for the future. This year is anything but usual and I could not let this moment pass without saying a little about my reflections on the past year.  

I wondered last January how the new decade would unfold. Like just about everyone else, I had no notion that 2020 would be that much different from years past. I considered what I should do to make improvements in my life that have a positive effect on myself, on others, and our environment. I never considered the challenges we ultimately would face as individuals, families, communities, and societies.  

The year 2020 forced us to face the biggest challenges of our time: a global pandemic, the collapse of our economy, and the stark realization that the organizations and institutions that drive much of our country are based on systems of racism that disadvantages our minoritized colleagues. I watched as our faculty, staff, and students confronted some of the darkest days of their lives. I have seen our community members lose loved ones to COVID-19 and then be unable to grieve with their family and friends. I have seen our IHP families confront childcare issues and virtual schooling all while trying to teach our students and mentor them into becoming health care providers. 

While all of these situations were difficult, I have seen incredible resilience, moments of kindness, and an uncompromising spirit that just did not fade. I have witnessed innovation that I did not realize existed and a strength of character of which I am so proud to be a part of. And while the world felt so heavy, I never felt alone in the fight. As individuals, we have grown in our ability to navigate challenges and in our humanity toward each other. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s made us realize that each day is a gift, and the people in our lives are the most important.  

The past year also validated for me the critical role health care providers play in improving the lives of those around us, and not just during a pandemic. The 9/11 tragedy highlighted the bravery of our first responders, but that bravery was there every day when these public servants risk their own lives to help others. The same is true for health care providers as the pandemic has shone a spotlight on them and rightfully labeled them as heroes for their courageous and selfless work over the past year. But health care providers also are heroes every day when they teach a new mom how to care for their infant, provide speech therapy to a patient with aphasia, or ambulate a patient for the first time after a traumatic brain injury. When I see their work, I have hope for the endless possibilities and promise for our future. The IHP’s work in creating that future has never been more important.  

As I look forward to 2021, I am inspired by the opportunity to begin a new year with a fuller recognition of what is important in life, a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by so many of my colleagues, and an appreciation for our incredible community. I have hope that we will get control of this virus and resume some of the activities that we have missed in the last year. I look forward to the changes that will result from the actions in response to the BLM protests and the recognition of systemic racism in our society. There will be challenges ahead, but I know, as a community, we will face them the same way we have faced the challenges of the last year. We will rely on the science, use best practices, and always be there to support each other. We will take what we have learned from last year and work to make our world better for the future. I can’t think of a better way to approach this new year.  

I wish you peace, good health, and a sense of calm and wellness for 2021.

December 2020: The Importance of Following – and Believing in – Science as Vaccine Nears

A couple of months ago, I wrote on the importance of vaccines to the public health of our country. In the United States and across the world, we have benefited from vaccines that have kept us safe from illnesses such as measles, diphtheria, and polio. Over the years, those who are disproportionately affected by these illnesses – people who are poor, living in crowded housing, and without access to health care – have seen significant benefits from vaccines. The coronavirus vaccine has the potential to affect all our lives, but for those people who are impacted by the social determinants of health: poor nutrition, inadequate housing, and low educational level, the coronavirus vaccine can have an even greater impact.  

So, how do we as a country get to the point where we can get back to normal? We continue to build on the science that had taken us to this point. I have heard many people discuss their distrust of the science and the scientists during this COVID-19 pandemic. First, scientists told us that masks are ineffective and then they said that masks are mandatory. They’ve changed their guidance on the modes of transmission and how we should deal with such things as mail, groceries, etc. Instead of being concerned about these changes, I have been inspired by them because science is evolutionary and, as our understanding evolves, so should our guidance. This is also true for our vaccines. I am not concerned that the AstraZeneca clinical trial identified a dosing error in its Phase 3 trial. I am encouraged that every detail at every stage of the process is being examined and reviewed by the scientists and the Data and Safety Monitoring Boards so that when the vaccine comes to market, it is a safe and effective protection against COVID.  

I recognize that the very population disproportionately impacted by COVID are those who have real and understandable reasons to distrust the scientists and the health care delivery system. Black Americans are dying from COVID at 2.5 times the rate of White Americans. Their mistrust of the health care delivery system comes from a long history of medical experimentation and misconduct. In 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service launched the Tuskegee Study using Black men to understand the course of disease in syphilis. In 1951, without her permission, cancer cells were harvested from Henrietta Lacks to create a cell line for medical experimentation (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Skloot, 2010).  The very health care system designed to protect and help people failed our Black community. Couple that legacy with the shortage of Black health care providers and unequal access to health care today, there is every reason why Black Americans may be skeptical about taking the COVID vaccine. Following the science and building community engagement in the efficacy and safety of the vaccine is critical if we are going to build confidence in all communities.   

The first vaccine, the Pfizer product, is scheduled to be reviewed by the FDA for emergency use on December 10 with phases 1A, 1B, and 1C of distribution to begin immediately thereafter. Any health care organization that will be the recipient of these vaccines is deep into the planning phase for storage and the logistics of distribution. As we know, health care workers, first responders, and the elderly and vulnerable will be the focus of this first phase of vaccine distribution. Knowing that our colleagues in health care, who have given so much and endured such physical and emotional pain during this pandemic, will be the first to be offered this vaccine is comforting to me.  

While the first vaccine distribution is right around the corner, I see these next few months as some of the most dangerous of the pandemic. We are all feeling a sense of exhaustion from the many months of COVID-related restrictions and the things we were doing safely outdoors have moved inside in the cold weather where they are no longer safe. We can’t let our guard down now. We must continue to be vigilant. Our commitment to our families, our IHP community, our patients, and ourselves has to stay strong for a few more months. We need to recommit to our Commit @ IHP  initiative so that we can finish this pandemic strong. The IHP has evolved our Commit initiative based on the best and most available science related to this pandemic. Following the Commit @IHP procedures at school, at home, and in the community will keep our community safe and allow us to continue to provide the educational and clinical experiences our students need to advance in their programs. That goal is just too important to jeopardize now.   

As an organization, the IHP has looked closely at the science, listened to our trusted colleagues who are working with this virus every day, and made decisions that are based on data. Those drivers will continue to determine our path forward. I hope you continue to stay safe and be well.

November 2020: How the IHP’s Core Values Can Help Before and After Election Day

I have thought a lot about what I wanted to share with you this month as I have had a lot on my mind. 

I continue to think about the way we as a society and the IHP are addressing the issues of racial injustice and equity. I worry about all the health care providers who are beginning to face a second wave of COVID-19 and their ability to be resilient in the face of such a long crisis. I have also been thinking a lot about the potential impact of the pandemic on the primary care workforce and how it will affect the health of our country’s population. If nationally we reduce the number of graduates from our nurse practitioner and physician assistant studies programs because of reduced access to clinical placements, what happens to our underserved populations who largely rely on NPs and PAs for their primary care? Pre-COVID, we knew that we faced a huge primary care provider shortage. We can’t afford to make that shortage worse. All of these things keep me up at night.  

I could have written about any of these issues this month, but I have chosen to address another issue that is as complex as any of the issues identified above. Tomorrow is Election Day and we, at the IHP, have discussed how stressful this time is for members of our community. Our country is fragmented into groups with strongly held political beliefs and no matter the outcome of the election, there will be those of us in our community who will feel angry, stressed, and disenfranchised. These will be difficult days where people might feel unsure about how to express their concerns or anxieties. In preparation for what I know will be a challenging week ahead, I have looked to the IHP mission and core values as a guide for how I can address the challenges that will be before us. Thinking through the core values, a few of them resonated most significantly at a time like this.  

The core values talk about the IHP as a place where every member is treated with dignity and respect, where there is mutual trust and collegiality in our relationships with each other, and where there are productive partnerships among all members of our community. The values also espouse the importance of lifelong learning. As we think about our collective responsibility to each other and the IHP community, the way we live our values is to be open to diversity of thought, be kind and respectful to those who disagree with us, and be willing to join others in a partnership to make the world a better place.  I suspect that some of you might not agree with all of my views, but I know you will respect my right to hold these views and engage with me in deliberate and intentional discourse about what each of us thinks about an issue. This is the beauty and elegance of a truly inclusive academic environment.  

As we enter our ninth month of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety related to the COVID pandemic, the IHP’s core values can help us rise above the chaos and construct solutions to navigate a changing world. An inherent element of mutual respect and collegiality is our ability to be patient with each other and the world we are experiencing. So much of what we are experiencing today requires unlimited patience.  Patience as we wait for a vaccine. Patience when we desperately want to see friends and family but can’t because of the pandemic. And there is a high likelihood that we will need patience when it comes to the election. Our ability to be patient with each other, to truly listen to each other, work to understand each other, and show authentic compassion in our communications is what will help us to rise above the chaos.

Over the next week, I hope you can find your own true North, some place that helps you make sense of all the uncertainly that we are experiencing in the world. I hope you find the resources and support you need and want in the many people, services, and offices that we have at the IHP. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help because our values define us as a helping community. There are resources on the OSAS website and the JEDI website that can be helpful to you, and the EAP/SAP also can be a great resource; call 1-866-724-4327 if you prefer to talk to someone directly. Please don’t go through this difficult time alone.

I wish you peace. Stay safe.

October 2020: The Way Back to Normal is Through Science

As many of you know, I am a community health nurse. I started my nursing career working on a post-operative care unit at a community hospital, but I was always more interested in the communities my patients came from, the homes they were going back to after discharge, and the impact of their environment on their recovery.

After three years in an acute-care hospital, I chose to study community health when I went back for a master’s degree. At the time, I believed, and still do, that the future of health care was going to be in the community.

In my master’s program, I was assigned a book to read about the polio epidemic in the United States, which started at the very end of the 1800s and continued through the first half of the 20th century. The story was a compelling one for me because, as the youngest of four children, my mother shared stories of children in the age groups of my older siblings she had heard about whom were stricken with this terrible disease. For parents living through that frightening epidemic, not knowing what the cause of the disease was, how it was spread, and if their child would be the next one who would contract this disease must have been harrowing. In 1916, there was a significant polio outbreak in New York City which spread to the adjacent states and resulted in significant death and disability of which the majority of those affected were under five years of age. 

As with many crises, we somehow figured out ways to come together to improve our society.  Out of this epidemic came the creation of the March of Dimes (originally called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis) which provided support for children with polio and their families. It was also a time of significant scientific breakthroughs. Even though there was so much the scientists didn’t know, it was through science and experimentation that our country made significant strides against the polio virus. Dr. Jonathan Salk created the first vaccine from the “killed” polio virus and began clinical trials with monkeys in 1949; by 1954, 1.3 million children had received the Salk polio vaccine. The Sabin vaccine was also developed, this time with “live” polio virus, which was administered to over 10 million children in Russia. Between 1956 and 1958, the number of polio cases worldwide decreased more than 75%. Polio still exists today but only in three countries (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria). In 2017, the total number of cases was 22.   

I have been thinking about that book on the polio epidemic for many months now because  when I read it, I never thought I would be living through a similar experience. In the early days of COVID-19, we knew very little about how the virus was transmitted, what it would take to reduce the spread, and who was most vulnerable. Unlike polio which affected mostly children, we learned this virus targeted the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions far too late to protect our nursing home residents and the elderly in our communities. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were told masks were not necessary but soon realized the importance of face-covering to reduce the spread. Handwashing, social distancing, and wearing a mask became routine parts of everyday living.  

And now we are facing another serious public health decision point. As the vaccines for COVID-19 enter the market, will there be sufficient trust in their safety and efficacy so the public takes them? A safe and effective vaccine will have the biggest impact of all the prevention measures we are currently using to minimize the number of new cases. I suspect those parents who were asked to join the millions of people immunizing their children against polio more than 60 years ago felt that same level of anxiety that we are feeling now.  

There is a TV commercial that says something like the way back to normal is through science. I continue to have faith in our scientific infrastructure as it examines the development and testing of vaccines through clinical trials. Every one of these trials has an independent, non-governmental Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) which is charged with reviewing the safety data and making a determination about whether the trial continues on or is halted. Currently, the DSMB is the only body that has access to the trial data. Once these trials are complete, or the DSMB is satisfied with the safety and efficacy data, the FDA will have to approve the vaccine for use in the general population. Vaccine manufacturers can apply for an emergency use authorization, but the FDA has signaled they will have certain restrictions in place for obtaining this type of authorization.

So for me, the jury is still out. I will continue to watch the science and the scientists to make my own determination of how safe and effective the vaccine is. I will watch how the FDA takes on the application process for these vaccine manufacturers and I will listen to scientists I trust, like Dr. Fauci, to point me in the right direction with regard to this vaccine. I believe in the importance of vaccines and I have seen the changes in the world’s population for those diseases for which we have a vaccine and for those diseases in which we don’t. Just look at the world prevalence (number of existing cases) of HIV (38 million) compared with that of polio (22).  I believe in the power of science to get us back to a more normal life. I hope you join me in this critical analysis as we each make our own decision about vaccination.

September 2020: New Experiences But the Same Excellence

This is an exciting time for us in higher education in general and at the IHP in particular. Just last weekend, we launched into practice over 560 new graduates at our 2020 Commencement ceremony and in a few days, we will be welcoming direct-entry students in nursing, physician assistant studies, genetic counseling, and speech-language pathology, as well as post-professional students in health professions education, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation sciences, 330 in all who will join those who started their academic programs this summer.

On August 30, the members of the 40th graduating class from MGH Institute of Health Professions took their rightful place as alumni, with the rights, privileges, and responsibilities associated with their discipline of study. Their commencement was like no other in the history of the IHP and, in fact, probably like no other in the history of higher education. When we were making plans for commencement, we had all hoped that we would be thinking of the global coronavirus pandemic as an historical event by summer of 2020. First, we pushed the date for the event from May to July and then to August, thinking by then we could have an in-person celebration, something everyone wanted for this graduating class. But as June arrived, we realized the pandemic not only was not abating but surging in some areas, making an in-person celebration of almost 5,000 people impossible. The decision to convert the event into a virtual celebration in August was not an easy one but now, having experienced it, I am thrilled for the students and their families. The celebration of each one of our graduates was personal and special. I feel like I know more about them now than I would have if I only had that few seconds to shake their hand as they walked across the stage. The ability to recognize our alumni awardees, our emeriti faculty, and our newest recipient of an honorary doctorate, Dr. Bette Ann Harris, rounded out the celebration in a way that felt like we were all together in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. And Meyyammai Muthu, a graduating SLP student who gave the keynote speech, was amazing.

The Class of 2020 certainly has much to be proud of after enduring unprecedented challenges over the last six months. As we pivoted to a fully virtual academic environment, these were the students who embraced the opportunity for telehealth experiences, innovated new models of learning clinical skills, sought opportunities to provide service to our community in crisis, and provided individual and collective support to each other through virtual social events. And while the experience was not what they expected, they received the preparation they needed to become beginning practicing clinicians, while their resilience in the face of adversity will serve them as they enter a less than perfect health care delivery system. They will be the leaders who can see past our current state to what can be done if we have the wisdom, creativity, and passion to succeed when nothing is what you expect. These are the graduates who will stand up for those who have consistently been marginalized in the health care delivery system because they have seen the disproportionate impact on minority populations from COVID-19. These graduates, our future health care leaders, will be the resilient providers who will change the wholly imperfect health care system we currently have.  

Next week, we are excited to be welcoming a new class of students who are beginning their journey into health care. Given the world we live in, it’s hard to imagine a collection of disciplines that are more important today than the roles for which we prepare students. Their decision to enter health care delivery at this time demonstrates their personal courage and passion for improving the lives of others. Our commitment to preparing these new students to be competent and just clinical providers, who are leaders in health care delivery and prepared to work as an interprofessional team to solve the incredibly challenging issues we face, has never wavered. The faculty and staff are ready to help welcome the incoming class and assist them to become integrated into our community of interprofessional learners. 

I don’t want to forget the many continuing students in our programs that continue to seek opportunities to grow as a health professional and learn in ways they had never expected. These are the students who had just started their clinical experiences when the pandemic changed everything. These are the students who are looking at the future and wondering how they will emerge from the IHP as beginning health professionals. Please know that your faculty, staff, and administration know the stress the changes of the last six months have put on you and those who support you. We want you to know that we are committed to making sure you have the same high-quality outcomes as the many IHP graduates who came before you – we just know you are going to get there using a slightly different path. Unlike previous IHP graduates, you will have skills that will prepare you for the delivery of health care in a very different model.  

For as many years as I have been in higher education, I always get excited about the beginning of a new academic year. It truly is my favorite time of the year. I love welcoming faculty and staff to our community because the promise of a new group of students about to embark on the best careers I can think of is so exciting. And while this academic year will be different as we enter the first few weeks of September, some of the usual traditions of a new academic year are beginning to emerge. We have an exciting new student orientation planned, students began arriving on campus on August 24 for clinical education experiences, and our faculty and staff are enjoying the rituals of a new academic year, albeit virtually. 

I look forward to a great year with you all. As we shed the constraints of the pandemic and begin to integrate usual activities into our lives, I look forward to a time when we can be together. I know we can make it a great year.  

July 2020: The Role of Advocacy

As you read the title of this, I am sure you thought I would be writing about how important it is for health care worker to advocate for changes in the health care delivery system that improve the care to our most vulnerable populations. I have written about that before in this blog because I think that is a critical role for all health care providers that often gets overlooked. 

While we will change the lives of individual patients and families with our care, we can improve the structure and delivery of health care for communities and populations through our policy advocacy. Both individual care and policy advocacy are critically important if we are ever going to be proud of the health care delivery system of which we are all a part.  

But this blog is going to take a little different perspective on the role of advocacy. I am going to ask you to think back to all the articles you have read about health care in the newspapers or on-line or stories you have seen on television. Who is the expert that is interviewed, consulted, or quoted in the news story? Who is represented as the face of health care in the media? In more than 98% of the stories on health care, it is a physician who is providing information and expertise about an innovation in health care or health care delivery. And while I am so respectful of the depth and breadth of knowledge of our physician colleagues, in fact, there are so many areas where other health professionals are more expert.  

Consider one of the most pressing issues in our country affecting both health and lifespan – physical inactivity. We know that Americans do not move enough and the American Physical Therapy Association talks about physical activity being the cornerstone of their profession. Who better to be consulted by the media about this important health determinant than physical therapists? While I have not seen physical therapists quoted in New York Times articles about the importance of physical activity, I have seen physicians and others talk about exercise as an important pathway to health and longer life.  

Since the 1980’s, when Beatrice and Philip Kalisch wrote their seminal article on nurses in the media, I have been intrigued about how few media articles there are about nursing innovation in practice or nursing research. And while nursing is the largest health profession, its representation in the media is almost non-existent. In a 2017 study by Diana Mason and colleagues (the Woodhall study), nurses were cited as sources in only 2% of the health news stories and never cited in policy-related health stories. This has changed a little bit with COVID-19, but I am not convinced the trajectory will continue once this crisis is over.  

I think of the incredible work of our IHP researchers who are studying problems that have an effect on the recovery of individuals with devasting illnesses. Each one of them has a story that would be important in the public media but is rarely explored by our journalist colleagues.  

Again, this discussion is in no way a slight of our physician colleagues whom I respect and value as a part of the health care team. Rather, this is a call to action for each one of us. I know none of us entered our professional with the goal of being the spotlight. We became physical therapists, nurses, speech therapists, occupational therapist, physician assistants, and genetic counselors to help people get well and have a better life. But as leaders in the health professions, our role can have a broader impact through advocacy for our work and our profession. How can we be ready for these opportunities and how can we push to make these opportunities more available?  

I ask that each of you think about those areas where you are uniquely qualified to provide depth of expertise. Who needs to have that information? What media vehicles would be interested in that expertise? That gives you an idea of where you could begin building relationships.

In the next academic year, the IHP will be hosting educational sessions on media preparedness for faculty and students who are interested in participating in that experience. Being ready when the opportunity arises makes us more open to saying yes when the call comes to be interviewed by a journalist. Finally, the IHP Office of Strategic Communications will be reaching out to places that host expert databases to make sure our IHP experts are included on their lists. If our experts are not included in these databases, it is unlikely we will be consulted when a relevant health issue arises.  

Creating visibility for the impact of our professions helps to frame our contributions to health care and in society. And while some may think it’s self-serving, in fact, it’s a service to our professions and the patients we care for. If we think of the major issues facing the health of our country and the world, our health professions are engaged in work that hold the solutions. I look forward to a time when our professions are consulted to explore solutions to the health problems we, as a county, face.  

June 2020: A Letter to the Class of 2020

To the 2020 graduates:  

My June Yardarm column has traditionally been a celebration of the May Commencement. As with everything else this year, our traditions have been modified, and May 11 came and went without the usual excitement of you celebrating with your friends, faculty, and loved ones at the BCEC. 

While our ceremony was postponed, I would like to recognize the 566 graduates who persisted in the face of challenges, grew as health care providers, and were launched into the world to improve the health of thousands. While the day was not what we expected, I hope it was a day of personal celebration for each and every one of you for all that you have accomplished and how you have met the challenge of this pandemic head-on. 

I look forward to our virtual Commencement celebration on Sunday, August 30 at 2:00 p.m. where we will hear from our student Commencement speaker, award an honorary doctorate, and recognize selected alumni. Our program will not be unlike what it would have been if we were able to gather in person. We will also recognize each of you individually and share a bit about your time at the IHP. We have lots of special touches that we know will make this event not only a distinguished celebration of your accomplishments but a joyous and festive event as well. I look forward to seeing you there!  

As I envision your future as an IHP graduate, I can’t help but see it in the context of what we have all gone through over the last 12 weeks. We have lost friends, family, and loved ones, and much of what we know and have grown accustomed to has been challenged. As leaders in health care, we all recognize the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the communities of color right here in Greater Boston and want to understand why this has happened not only here but also all over the country. For example, in Chelsea, 66% of the population identifies as Hispanic, limited English ability is four times the state average, and the poverty rate is 50% higher than the average for Massachusetts. Here, residents have a death rate that is four times that of the state as a whole; Chelsea has the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in Massachusetts. Most of us would look at these data and think that perhaps individual comorbidities or the social determinants of health played a role in this picture. Perhaps the structural racism that prevented our Chelsea neighbors from accessing culturally relevant health care in a timely manner was a contributing factor.  

As Dr. Tom Sequist, Chief Patient Experience and Equity Officer for Mass General Brigham, described in his testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on May 27, there are multiple factors that are driving this disproportionate impact. As health care leaders, we all have a responsibility to work to reduce the impact of the social determinants of health on communities of color. We all have a responsibility to work to reduce the impact of structural racism not only in the care we provide but also in the systems in which we work. Our work with communities and populations can have an effect on the availability of nutritious food, the availability of adequate housing, and the perception of a welcoming health care delivery system. I hope, as you have witnessed the impact of this pandemic, your passion to look further than your individual client to the community in which they belong and to the system of health care of which you are a part has been ignited. 

Furthermore, the events of the last week after the brutal death of George Floyd demonstrate clearly how systemic racism impacts the way people of color are treated across the country. Protests and civil unrest across the country reflect the desperate need for sweeping changes not only in policing but also in the many ways Blacks are disadvantaged in this country, including in the health care they receive. The Institute remains steadfast in its commitment to exploring and discussing these issues, as well as being a model for change. 

As an IHP graduate, your commitment to leadership in health care is remarkable, and the leadership you bring has never been more important than it is in these challenging times. You are going into a health care world that most of us have never imagined, and you will be asked to do things that many of us have never done. The challenges will be many, and the burden of that work will be heavy. So many of you came to the IHP to make a positive difference in people’s lives, to make people feel better, to give them the ability to do things they could not do before your care. As you navigate as a new practitioner into a system in which you may not have the outcomes that you expected, I hope you remember to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically. As health care providers, we know what to do but often forsake that for the benefit of our patients. Being able to take time for yourself, reflect on your experiences, and ask for help when you need it is what will make you an exceptional provider. You have a long career ahead, and it’s when things are the hardest that you need to take care of yourself the most.  

I wish you all a career that is everything you hoped for when you entered the IHP. You will always be part of this community, and I hope the IHP will always be a part of your life. I hope that your passion for your profession only builds as you grow as a provider. I know I speak for the IHP faculty and staff when I say that we wish you well.  


May 2020: Moments of Joy and Silver Linings

Our lives have been forever changed as a result of the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. Even if we can resume some of our normal activities, our view of the world and what we think is important has shifted.

Over the last two months, we have learned new ways to work, play, socialize, and reduce stress. We have had to because the usual ways of doing all these things were unavailable. And while I can sometimes find myself focusing on all the negative impacts of this pandemic, I have been inspired by the many, many great things that are happening at the IHP that demonstrate the resilience of faculty, staff, and students and the innovative spirit that permeates our community. Our community does not accept good enough or average. There is a hunger for excellence, even in the face of adversity. This President’s Message is all about the incredible programs, innovations, and joys that have been occurred over the last two months.  

Faculty and staff didn’t waste any time when we made the decision to close the campus and move to a virtual education model. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, our faculty and staff launched into a series of innovations that would support on-line education, create virtual simulation opportunities, and develop approaches to education that supported our student’s clinical learning. Last month, I shared the work of our instructional designers in developing supports for faculty and the delivery of a virtual interprofessional simulation at the Sanders IMPACT Practice Center for 60 students in the first week of the pandemic. These kinds of innovations continue, and others have been added. For example, one of our most active centers in the IPC is the Aphasia Center. Because we closed the IPC to patients, faculty from the Speech and Language Pathology program launched a telehealth program allowing patients from the Aphasia Center to continue their therapy as well as remain connected to the members in the Center. 
This is what excellence in the face of adversity looks like.  

Even though our students are not on campus, they have expressed a strong desire to aid those in need, contribute to the IHP community, and develop their leadership skills. Through student leadership, two programs, Teddy Talks and Big Buddies, have been developed. In the Big Buddies program, IHP students are matched with Harvard-Kent students to provide mentorship, support for learning, and friendship. The Teddy Talks program is modeled after Ted Talks for adults. IHP students record an educational video that parents can use to support a child’s education or provide for independent learning. There are more than 30 IHP students engaged in these two programs. Students leading students has continued through the Student Government Association and the IHP clubs. These are places where students can grow in their leadership skills.  

I also want to share the incredible work that our students are doing in the Mass General Brigham system to support the workforce and provide necessary care to patients. From both the School of Nursing and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, we have more than 350 faculty and students working at MGH, Boston Hope, the Assembly Row Call Center, Chelsea Quality Inn, and Spaulding Cambridge. Our students and faculty have been amazing in the way they have stepped in to be helpful to our partners. 

Finally, our community has figured out ways we can feed our soul. For so many of us, the best part of the IHP are the people. And while we are now used to the “Hollywood Squares” approach to conducting our business, it is not the same as running into someone in the hall, having coffee with a colleague at Dunkin Donuts, or meeting, in person, to discuss a thorny issue. So, in addition to the regular schedule of Zoom meetings we all have, the IHP added virtual social events that have helped us to stay together as a community and support our members. The Staff Council hosts Tea Time, an informal Zoom gathering where people can play trivia games and socialize in small groups. Human Resources has sponsored meditation and mindfulness sessions and just last Friday evening, the Office of Student and Alumni Services hosted IHP Together: Connecting through the Arts. Organized by Kerry Kearns and Katie Mulcahy and cleverly emceed by Russ Abbatiello, IHP faculty, staff, students, and alumni showed us all that the IHP is a very talented community. From singing, to dancing, to instrumental performances, I think we were all impressed that these current or future health professionals have incredible talent as well as an uncompromising commitment to health care. We are lucky to have them as part of the IHP community.

In these difficult times, it’s easy to focus on the negative but I choose to look for the silver lining, those moments of joy that we can share as a community. Those are what will sustain us and allow us to come out of this challenge better than when it started.  

Please stay well and be healthy.

April 2020: "I know we will get through this together."

First and foremost, I hope you and your families are healthy and safe.

It has been said too many times over the last few weeks that these are unprecedented times. The coronavirus has asked us to change almost everything we know and love about who we are and those people with whom we interact. No longer are we about to greet each other with a robust and heartfelt handshake or a hug (and I am a hugger). In fact, those opportunities for meeting people have all but disappeared from our lives because our world has been narrowed to the grocery store and pharmacy. Even those outings have become completely transactional – get in for what you need and get out as fast as you can. No longer do we have the opportunity to sit at the benches at the Bunker Hill Mall or the ones around Pier 4 to talk to complete strangers. For some, our world has also narrowed to the few people who are at home with us all the time or the people in the little boxes during our Zoom meetings.  

We are all living at a time when anxiety, fear, and stress are a big part of our lives. We are looking for answers where there are none. We are seeking the “truth” where multiple versions of the truth exist. We want to know what our life will be like when this pandemic has subsided. Oh, and by the way, when with that be?

And while this pandemic is forcing us to change the way we do almost everything in our lives, it is compelling us to come together, as a community, in ways we never thought possible. While we know that the path forward is unclear and changing all the time, we also know that we can count on each other to create new approaches to how we do our work or lift each other up.  

Over the last three weeks, I have witnessed and heard of so many of our IHP members going above and beyond to address the needs of the community. I have also seen incredible innovation brought on this challenge. I will name just a few of them here but please know there are many, many more that I could include, all critically important to our community. 

  • On our very first day of moving all of our coursework online, Dr. Mary Knab, the IMPACT Practice Team, and many faculty led a virtual simulation with over 30 groups of students, learning together about clinical care. Under normal circumstances this experience is challenging, but the team created a virtual environment that was amazing and allowed the students to experience interprofessional practice at its best.   
  • Tony Sindelar has created as series of You Tube videos on how to teach online in our “New Normal.” By providing best practices and strategies for online teaching, Tony has helped faculty improve the quality of their teaching for our students. But he also has reduced the stress on our faculty because they have solutions to their problems readily at hand.  
  • Last week, our Staff Council held a virtual wine and chess that was attended by over 40 people. They “visited” with each other, enjoyed a beverage of their choice, and played a trivia game. Ours is a community that enjoys socializing together. By creating a virtual opportunity for socialization, we can create a sense of normalcy that we have lost over these last few weeks.  
  • I could go on!

While we don’t know the answers to many life’s questions today, I do know that we will overcome this virus and begin to bring back a sense of our previous lives. We, as a country, as a people, and as a community that have overcome so much before this crisis, will stand together to defeat the virus, learn from this experience, and grow both individually and collectively. When the vision of the IHP was developed, a major assertion included the importance of the education of leaders in health care and the research and outreach that improves health care. Through this pandemic, we have seen the importance of that vision in real time. 

Finally, stay healthy by heeding the CDC recommendations for social distancing and handwashing. Pay attention to your own self-care. Virtually reach out to others who might be having a particularly difficult time during this pandemic. I know we will get through this together.


March 2020: IHP Growth as a Health Care System Imperative 

In almost every meeting I have with faculty, staff, and students, the subject of the IHP’s vision for growth is raised. I think this is in part because we have been talking about growth for more than a year now, but also because of our newly launched ENRICH initiative.

Just recently, Provost Alex Johnson led a standing-room-only Town Hall meeting describing the ENRICH model and our plans for addressing some of the challenges faced by the IHP. Led by an Executive Committee of James Dupont, Heather Easter, Atlas Evans, Alex Johnson, and Denis Stratford, our ENRICH model looks at opportunities in our existing academic and continuing professional development programs as well as opportunities to develop new educational programs, all within the context of supporting our faculty and staff in the process of innovation.  To do all this work, we are getting the support of consultants in the areas we want to assess and possibly make change. The process has been well planned and thoughtful with the hope of getting us to the best possible future for the IHP. 

But what are the goals of this initiative? Why is the IHP undertaking this planning process now? What do we hope to accomplish through this process? There are both internal and external factors at play here that make the ENRICH initiative important for the IHP’s future and the future of health care delivery. Two years ago, the IHP community spent almost six months discussing our future as part of the strategic planning process. We identified six major priorities for our future, with one of them focused on continuing to regularly assess programs to ensure the quality of, modify, and/or launch new degree programs that will drive improvements in health care. Our strategic plan gives direction and focus to this work. 

By examining each of our current programs and optimizing enrollment in each one, we are being efficient and effective with our current resources. The health care workforce continues to grow and is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the population ages, and there is a concomitant increase in the number of chronic illness per adult, the need for health care providers will also increase. For example, the employment of PAs is projected to grow 31% from 2018 to 2028 and the employment of nurse practitioners is expected to increase by 28% in that same time period (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). And while the increase in the needs for providers is uneven among all of our programs, it remains clear that we are preparing the providers of the future, people who can work across disciplines and are comfortable providing care in an interprofessional team model. Our graduates are those who will be ready to transform health care for the benefit of the population. Shouldn’t we be producing as many of these kinds of providers as we can? We need to be a significant contributor to that workforce. 

But there are other health care workforce challenges we are not fully addressing, and the ENRICH process will help to uncover some of those opportunities. This process will allow us to ask ourselves, what does the future of health care delivery look like and how can we be an important contributor to that future? Just recently, I had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Farhan Syed, Vice President for Learning Solutions at LinkedIn. He shared that the skills needed to compete in today’s workforce are changing faster than ever with more than one-third of job skills learned today changing in the next five years. The need for high quality continuing education and professional development, the kind that IHP is known for, can contribute significantly to excellence in the health care workforce. 

We also know that the world of health care delivery is changing as digital solutions become more widely used. It has been suggested that the promise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is greater in health care than in any other industry, and we have barely scratched the surface in ways that AI can help us provide better, more compassionate, and cost-effective care to patients and populations. The ENRICH process will help position the IHP develop a workforce for a changing health care delivery landscape by helping us to identify new trends in health care.

I am excited about the opportunity to build on the excellence we have created over the last 43 years and create new opportunities to contribute to an improved health care delivery system. Our challenge is to lead in the era of a changing health care workforce and we are certainly up to that challenge. 

February 2020: Look at Governor Charlie Baker’s Health Care Proposal

In my January column, I mentioned the Medicare for All that is being considered by some of the Democratic presidential candidates. Such a bill, if passed, would be a revolutionary change for the United States, just as the inception of Medicare was in 1965. Medicare meets so many of the health needs of the elderly but, as I wrote, it is not the panacea that many people believe. For me, the jury is still out on whether Medicare for All is the right direction or is there is some other approach that will address the complexities of health care needs in our population.
Last month, I also said I was impressed with many of the elements in Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s health care reform proposal. I will highlight just a few of his proposals here, but I encourage you to read the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association’s analysis of H.4134, An Act to Improve Health Care by Investing in Value.

One of the most exciting areas in the governor’s proposal is the additional funding for behavioral health and primary care, with a target of a 30% increase above current expenditures over the next three years. There are also several changes to increase insurance coverage for behavioral health and increased specificity of the kinds of services health care organizations are required to have available for behavioral health patients. The proposal also would create a board of registry for recovery coaches and impose a 15% excise tax on the gross receipts for opioids manufactured and sold in Massachusetts. Taken together, these changes would be significant.

Behavioral health spending has not met the needs of the population for many years and behavioral health needs continue to grow. Providing the necessary care for patients with behavioral health problems will address some of the social problems we are seeing on the rise, such as homelessness, violence, and sexual assault. An investment in this vulnerable group could have significant impact on the overall health of our population.  

Similarly, investing in primary care for patients is not only good for the patient, it’s good for health care providers and for the community. We have long known that primary care helps people stay healthy and when they do get sick, being able to access a primary care provider shortens the illness and prevents a small problem from escalating into a major crisis. We also know that people without a primary care provider often seek care in the emergency department for problems that are better (and far less expensively) treated in the community. 

Both these investments have the potential to improve care to the underserved, reduce costs and improve the community in which we live. Both will also require an increase in the provider workforce to meet the demands associated with increased access and funding.   

Another exciting component of the Baker proposal would add new protections for patients from receiving “surprise” medical bills for services and establish new notice requirements for disclosure of provider network status and referrals. A surprise bill is defined as one received by an insured patient for amounts other than plan cost-sharing for covered services provided by an out-of-network provider in an emergency, or by an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility. The Baker bill would require providers to determine network status and provide certain information to patients. We all recognize the complexity of navigating the health care delivery system. Even for those of us who have lived a lifetime working in health care, the byzantine system that drives access to care and subsequent billing is often too hard to understand. Having these protections for patients, most of whom find the experience of care overwhelming, is the right thing to do. 

There were several changes proposed that relate to nursing including making Massachusetts a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). This will allow nurses licensed in another NLC state to work in Massachusetts without having to go through the laborious process of endorsement. Having done this myself when I moved to Massachusetts, I would say it is major impediment for a nurse wanting to work in the Commonwealth. There were also several changes to advanced practice nursing scope of practice, including allowing qualified psychiatric nurse practitioners to admit patients to an inpatient psychiatric facility on a voluntary basis, or on an involuntary basis for a three-day period.  

While there are many other aspects of the proposed legislation, increasing access to care and creating protections for vulnerable populations are central to addressing our imperfect health care system. I hope you take the time to read Governor Baker’s proposal and let his office know what you think about it. While we have far to go to make our health care system work for everyone, I believe H.4134 is a step in the right direction.

January 2020: A New Decade Begins for the IHP – and Possibly in Health Care

As I write this, it’s hard to believe that we have said goodbye to 2019 and we are embarking on the new decade of the 2020s. While the last decade was a great one for the IHP, I know we can look forward to more great accomplishments in the coming years that will distinguish the IHP as the stellar academic institution it is. We have so much to be proud of and so much to look forward to! 

As one of the final acts of the decade, 89 IHP students in the School of Nursing and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences were approved by the Board of Trustees for completing their studies. We wish these new graduates well in their new careers and hope they stay connected to the IHP. 

To start the new year, this week we are welcoming 86 new students in our Accelerated Baccalaureate in Science Nursing program. They have arrived from all over the country to begin a journey that will bring them into the heart of health care. They come to us with degrees in Biology, Psychology, Art, Business, Exercise/Health Science, Music Education, Pharmacy, Veterinary Science, Languages, and Engineering. They will leave behind their lives as Mental Health Specialists, Population Health Coordinators, EMTs, Paramedics, Medical Scribes, Pharmacy Techs, and Veterinary Assistants and immerse themselves in a whole new culture, committing to a future as a nurse. They will study harder than they have ever studied before and they will have experiences that will be transformational.

I also want to begin January by welcoming back all of our existing students and wishing everyone in the IHP community a peaceful, joyous, and successful new year.


I recently was part of a panel, sponsored by the news organization Axios, that discussed access and affordability of health care. One of the panelists asked a simple question that made me sit back and think for moment: “What is the minimum level of health care benefit a U.S. citizen should have access to?” He said that right now, the minimum level of benefit we all have is the Emergency Department, a totally ineffective and inappropriate setting for most people.

I have thought about this question a lot in the context of evaluating so many of the policies and plans from national politicians like Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, all of whom have proposed versions to fix the country’s broken health care system.

So, full disclosure – I am not sure I am totally in favor of Medicare for All. Yet.

Right now, my experiences as a home care nurse who mainly dealt with a Medicare population inhibits my ability to fully support that proposal. I would love to see a health care plan that meets the needs of the population it serves in the most effective and cost-efficient way. However, Medicare is nether cost-efficient nor does it meet the needs of the population it serves. As an acute care benefit, Medicare does not pay for the kind of long-term care, chronic illness, or community-based care that most seniors need. Instead, it focuses on hospital care and very short-term care skilled care following discharge.

Nurse practitioners can’t certify a patient for home care or recertify their plan of care. This has to be done by a physician (added cost) who knows little about what is happening in the home (reduced quality). These kinds of restrictive and illogical regulations are incredibly short sighted and give me pause as I think about extending that kind of incoherent bureaucracy to the country’s entire population. 

As I think about the future, I envision a health care delivery system for all with strong community-based resources that provide high-quality preventive and primary care services and ongoing care for people with chronic medical and behavioral illnesses. I think about a system that uses the right provider for the right patient at the right time, each working as members of an interprofessional team committed to patient/family wellness. I see public health care providers in our communities addressing the social determinants of health.

Can we get this kind of health care under one of the Medicare for All plans that are being proposed?  Will inane regulations get in the way of providing the right kind of care to children and adolescent and people with behavioral health problems? I don’t know the answer to that which is why I can’t say yes to that concept yet. I think there is much more that needs to be explored as we migrate to a national health insurance model. A good place to start would be the health care legislation proposed last October by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, which has many interesting elements. I’ll have some thoughts on that in my February Yardarm column.

There is so much hope in beginning a new year. I am optimistic that we can do better for those who don’t have access to the kind of care we would want for them. Maybe 2020 is that year. 

December 2019: Finding the Joy in Leadership 

This is the time of year that we tend to take stock in our lives, what we contribute to the world, and what we are grateful for. I try to do that periodically because I often get busy with a myriad of things and forget to be grateful for the gifts I have been given and the people in my life. 

But about a month ago, I was forced to really look deep and try to figure out where in my life and in my work I find joy. I was asked by the Greater Boston Nursing Collective to give the keynote address at their annual meeting on “The Joy of Leadership.”  Now, some of you might say that this phrase is an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp” or “bittersweet.”  Can we really put “joy” and “leadership” in the same phrase?  Is there joy in being a leader and if so, where is it found? I was challenged to reflect and articulate where I find joy in my role as a leader. 

I have been in leadership roles for many years and I have found these roles to be exciting, energizing, and professionally rewarding. I really never needed to articulate where I find joy in the leadership roles I had, so this process was a new one for me. After some deep reflection and quite a bit of self- assessment, I came up with five different areas that account for a significant degree of the joy I experience as a leader. 

Engaging with people: In my many years as a leader, the thing I love most are the interactions I have with faculty, staff, and students. The ability to engage in thoughtful discussion, or hear a different perspective, or even challenge one another, is such a gift we as academics have. Being with students and colleagues are the best times by far for me as a leader.   

Being able to support other people’s success: As a leader, I find incredible joy in helping others reach their professional goals. Being able to take away the barriers to success that sometimes impede the work of faculty or staff is very gratifying. I have long felt that the success of one member of the team is the team’s success.   

Giving of myself through mentoring: For me this includes both formal and informal mentoring. Being open and honest and generous with my time is sometimes challenging but the rewards are significant. 

Maintaining my core values: As I reflected on my career, the most “unjoyous” times as a leader were the times when I compromised my core values. These were times when I felt my thinking was disorganized, I was uncomfortable in my own skin, and disconnected in some way. Maintaining my core values, even in difficult situations and against pressure, is challenging. But when I do, I have felt that I had clarity of thought and a sense of calm, even in turbulent water.   

Learning: I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I had chosen to work in an environment other than academia. The opportunity, in fact the expectation, that we are engaged in a lifelong process of learning and discovery has been a joy in my life. In what other career can you have the choice of attending multiple lectures in the course of the day, be encouraged to attend educational seminars, and have scholarship as part of your role? There is something very wonderful about being in academia.   

Being able to recognize and know what brings me joy as a leader has been an interesting process. I was grateful for the challenge to explore this aspect of my career and enjoyed sharing my perspective with the conference attendees and now with you. I hope you examine your own role and see where you find joy in what you do.

November 2019: Strategic Plan Update for Year 1, and Looking Ahead in Year 2

As we begin Year 2 of our current Strategic Plan, I thought It would be helpful to give a summary of what we have accomplished to date and an idea of what we have planned for this year.

The strategic planning process began in the 2017-2018 academic year, bringing together over 150 faculty, and staff, along with some students where possible, to define the IHP’s future for the next four years. The Strategic Plan was approved by the IHP Executive Council, shared with the IHP community, and approved by the Board of Trustees in the spring of 2018. That summer, we worked to develop a detailed tactical map for each of the strategic priorities which provided the roadmap for how to accomplish the broad goals we had defined in the plan. 

Given that each goal we defined included many tactics, we decided we had to focus on a subset of tactics so that we could be successful. In the fall of 2018, we identified four areas that, despite their significant costs, were considered such high priorities that we decided to work on them right away.
They were: 

  • Establish the Institute as a leader in research and scholarship,
  • Build and nurture a diverse and inclusive community,
  • Expand IPE competencies, and
  • Launch new programs that will drive improvements in health care.

These four areas involved filling three new positions and engaging consultation to help us plan for the growth of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Each of these high-priority areas had numerous smaller tactics needed to address the larger goal. For example, under the diverse and inclusive community initiative, we worked to assess the needs of our community related to diversity and inclusion, constructed a vision, and launched a new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and hired its inaugural Executive Director.

In the other three areas, we have reorganized our interprofessional education work under a new Interim Associate Provost for Interprofessional Education and Practice and hired a new Executive Director for Research. We also continue to explore growth opportunities in our academic and CPD programs. 

When we identified the four major priorities, we realized there were many tactics we could accomplish over the course of the plan’s first year that would be low cost but have a significant impact on the IHP.  The 10 areas identified were: 

  1. Enhance student leadership activities and alumni development.
  2. Incorporate diverse perspectives in the curriculum.
  3. Increase the number and frequency of clinical placements that provide opportunity to work with diverse patients.
  4. Enhance pre-enrollment communication strategy.
  5. Develop a model of preferred vendors.
  6. Enhance professional development opportunities for staff.
  7. Deepen relationships with our local communities.
  8. Increase the number of faculty from underrepresented communities.
  9. Grow beneficial relationships with Harvard and other academic partners.
  10. Work toward a unified brand message.

Each of these 10 initiatives had a leader and a small task force charged to address the issue and make progress toward achieving the goal. 

During the fall 2018 semester, we developed a model that would allow us to see our progress toward our goals and we reviewed our progress regularly at the Executive Council meetings. We have made significant progress on some initiatives, while we have just begun to see progress on others. For example, we have developed the model for IHP’s preferred vendors and are ready to launch that this year. We have launched new communication models for both current students and new students. We have made significant progress on the professional development activities for staff. We have begun the process of developing a model to increase the number of underrepresented faculty at the IHP. We completed an overview video for the IHP and shared an elevator speech card with the IHP community.   

We anticipated that some of these would take longer than a year, and they have. We continue to advance our work in student and alumni affairs. We are working diligently on increasing diverse perspectives in the curriculum and increasing the number and frequency of clinical placements in locations in which there is a larger percentage of diverse patients. We are also working toward deepening our relationship with local communities and our academic partners. This work will continue over the course of the upcoming years until completed. 

While we have made significant progress, there is still much work to be done. The Executive Council made the decision to focus the work of Year 2 on growth, both in the academic program and in continuing professional development (Strategic Priorities 1 and 2). Growth in our programs will allow us to have the revenue streams needed to maintain their excellence and complete some of the other work included in our strategic plan. A small Steering Committee for Growth with Provost Alex Johnson at the helm will help us to define our future, create efficiencies in developing new programs, and explore new approaches to pedagogy. We are excited that this group has already begun its work on this important strategy and as we did this year, we will be hearing about its progress periodically at the Executive Council.

This doesn’t mean we will not be addressing some additional low-cost, high-impact tactics and strategies again during 2019-2020. Working with the Executive Council, we will identify those tactics and strategies in the Strategic Plan that we can accomplish over the course of this year with small teams of IHP faculty and staff.    

I am excited for our future and our Strategic Plan helps us to focus our work and resources in the most effective ways. Stay tuned for more information on our work as the year progresses. If you have questions, comments or suggestion on our work to date or our plans for next year, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

October 2019: The Impacts of Excessive Screen Time

I am writing this blog from the airport in Beijing where I have just been told that I have a five-hour delay of my flight to Boston. Five days ago, I left Boston to spend some time at Central South University School of Nursing in Changsha in the Hunan Province of China. A young women, whom I have mentored for almost 25 years, is a professor there and she asked me to present at a conference on research methods that she was organizing. As is usually the case with my trips to China, there are often multiple duties that go along with the primary request. This time, she asked me to teach one of her classes on a course on nursing roles and because I had some free time one morning, she scheduled several students to meet with me about their manuscripts. I may once have mentioned that if I am going to travel this far, I want to be busy and she took my words to heart. In truth, I love it.

It has been a great trip and I am more than ready to come home but having spent more time than anyone should in airports and in the process of traveling, I have made an observation that will come as no surprise to anyone: kids spend way too much time looking at screens of all kinds. Phones, tablets, iPads, learning toys—you name it, I have seen it on this trip. Now, as the grandmother of three very active young children, I realize that giving a child an electronic device is one strategy a parent might use to maintain their sanity during long travels. I am the last one to judge. But the kids I were watching were not novices. They were pros at using these devices. They were searching for the websites they wanted, they were navigating the sites, and they were mesmerized by the screens. I saw what looked like a two-year-old using her little fingers to move the screen back and forth on a phone until she found what she wanted. How does she know how to do that?

I decided to use some of my airport time to try and find out the impact of screen time on our children. I had read the lay literature and seen a news clip here and there. Both my daughter and my daughter-in-law have pretty strict rules on screen time for their children so I have seen the problem through their lens. But I wanted to know more about the impact of screens on kids. While the studies are not conclusive, and the correlations are complicated, they do show that children who have a significant use of screens over the course of a day have a premature thinning of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that is processes different types of information from the senses. The literature talked about inadequate sleep quality and quantity, changes in learning patterns and in older kids, problems with peers, depression, anxiety and conduct problems. In general, there are significant adverse health outcomes for children using screens that can have a lasting consequence. And it does not stop with children. Excessive screen use in adults (including graduate students in the health professions) has similar impacts on sleep and behavior as it does in children. 

So, what are we doing as health care providers? Is screen use a routine part of all assessments we do on all of our patients, not just children? If so, what is the evidence that we use to educate our families and patients about best practices? There is some interesting literature that includes practice tips that can be used by clinicians to provide meaningful education. But we need more empirical evidence to guide our practice. Much of what I read suggested that the research in this area is in its infancy and we need more clinical trials and longitudinal studies to advance the science. Funding for this research is critical and needs to be supported by the NIH.

I close now, recognizing that I have spent entirely to much time using a screen in the last 24 hours. The next 24 hours don’t look much better. Perhaps one outcome of this trip is raising my consciousness about how much screen time I have in a day. 

September 2019: A New Academic Year Begins But Grim Realities of Immigration Policies Persist

Welcome back to a new academic year. This September, we will be welcoming our first class of Genetic Counseling students and our first class of PhD in Health Professions Education students to the IHP. We will also be welcoming our largest class of PhD students in Rehabilitation Science. Including the master’s in nursing and speech-language pathology programs, and the certificate and non-degree programs, 346 new students are joining the IHP this fall.

The start of the new academic year has always been a particularly exciting time for me. When I was a young faculty member, the new year meant a chance to start over with new learners who were open to new ideas and who had experiences that made the classroom a dynamic and exciting place. As an administrator, knowing the promise of each new academic year and having the opportunity to engage with students, faculty, and staff as they plan for a new year is a gift that I always appreciate.

While the IHP is alive with the excitement of new students, new opportunities, and new adventures, we, as a country, have been struggling with the grim realities of what is occurring at the border and with the policies that disenfranchise the most vulnerable in our communities. For the past several months, we have heard stories about the horrible conditions that individuals, some of whom have traveled thousands of miles to come to America, are being detained in. The conditions are described as crowded, and unsanitary, with an odor that permeates the environment. As a human rights issue, we should be concerned about the health status of each one of these individuals. The House has put forth a resolution that requires each individual entering the country have a complete medical screening that includes documentation of medical complaints and health status. While this is a beginning, it is not enough. The health of our communities and our country depends on healthy members and we have a responsibility to help those entering the U.S.

Of particular concern are the children who have fled challenging situations at home, only to come to the U.S. to sometimes be separated from their families and be detained far longer than policies permit. In addition to the unsanitary health conditions these children experience, their young lives are being marred by the toxic stress of being separated from their families and housed in detention facilities not designed for children. Clinicians know that toxic stress can have an effect for a lifetime by influencing brain development and impairing mental, emotional and physical health. Once again, our responsibility as a country is to care for the most vulnerable among us, the children, with compassion.

To add to the immigration challenges, most recently there has been a renewed call for the application of an expanded version of the public charge test to decide whether a person can enter the U.S. or get a green card. Under the public charge test, immigration officials examine a person’s circumstances (health, age, income, assets, family to support, or family who will support them) to determine if they are likely to depend on government assistance in the future or could use public assistance like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Medicaid in the future. If the immigration official determines that the immigrant will use public assistance programs in the future, they can refuse the individual’s application to enter the U.S. or get a green card.  Once again, we are faced with a rule that destabilizes the immigrant population and creates a situation where needed care and resources feel out of reach for individuals who need support.

So, what does all this have to do with us? Our mission at the IHP is to advance care for a diverse society through education, clinical practice, research, and community engagement. The entire IHP community is sensitive and responsive to those in need in our communities.  As health care providers and health care providers in training, we hold professional values that define a commitment to provide compassion and care to those who need it. This is what defines us as a unique academic institution committed to the education of health professionals. As fellow humans, we have a responsibility to provide support for all members of our society.

While I know the challenges we face in society will not be solved in the short term, I also know that we can contribute to the health of our community through community service, policy advocacy, and remaining informed on the key issues affecting health care. Our voices, individually and collectively, can make a difference. Our environment can be welcoming and supportive for all of our members and our education can empower us to be leaders in our communities. We at the IHP can be the voices that will shape a better health care delivery system, healthier communities, and a more compassionate country.

I look forward to having a great academic year with you.

July 2019: Our Efforts Addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In so many ways, the IHP is a unique community. I heard it when I first interviewed for the position of President, and it became clear soon after I arrived in 2017 that this is indeed the case.

This is a community where people have a distinctive commitment to each other and to the IHP’s mission of educating tomorrow’s health care leaders. Through our actions and strategies, we have shown our commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment that focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). I would like to share with you just a few of the initiatives we have undertaken during the last two years that have expanded on the great DEI work that already existed at the IHP.

One of the first strategies was to expand the scope of the existing Diversity Council to become the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council so that it was more reflective of what we believed it should focus on. We added students to ensure they were properly represented. We also changed the Council’s approach so that it would have a much more visible and active role in providing leadership on these issues.

At a mini-strategic planning exercise in the fall of 2017, we identified four areas on which the Council should focus: increasing the number of underrepresented faculty, improving the diversity and cultural content in the curriculum, making the IHP core values real for students as they enter our community, and increasing the student voice. A task force for each initiative was created to address the identified goals.

The Core Values Task Force initiated an addition to the student orientation experience entitled What is the IHP’s Role in Health Care? Exploring the Impact of Power, Privilege and Positionality. This four-hour session began with a discussion about the IHP Core Values followed by a panel discussion of how those core values are lived in the IHP community, in the classroom and in the clinical setting. The panel discussion was followed by small group breakout sessions facilitated by our faculty and staff who had received empowered bystander behavior training. We have done these sessions three times over the last year, and we have received positive feedback from the students about the program and the tone it sets for their relationship with the IHP. We plan to continue to provide this experience to incoming students, improving it each time based on student feedback.

The Faculty Recruitment Task Force recommended improving our efforts to recruit underrepresented faculty. Because we are continually searching for very successful underrepresented faculty and engaging them with the IHP, even when we don’t have a faculty position open in their field, Human Resources has hired a new manager committed to developing a series of actions that could include inviting potential faculty to be a guest lecturer or sending a congratulatory letter to them upon receiving an award, which in many cases would introduce them to the school. These and other actions would help establish a relationship with someone and give us an edge in enticing them to join our faculty.

The Curriculum Task Force’s focus is on improving all programs’ case studies in the curriculum. One of our primary responsibilities is to help prepare our students to care for patients in diverse settings and provide them with new perspectives on leading change in health care. So when we heard from some students who felt our case studies often did not include diverse populations or explore issues of diversity from a culturally thoughtful perspective, we decided to create a model for faculty to develop culturally appropriate case studies and strategies to better represent the world in which our students will work and live.

The Student Voice Task Force has just started its work to develop a campaign called “#IHP and Me” that will feature students talking about their experiences. We intend to launch this campaign in the near future.

We believe that building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community is the responsibility of every faculty, staff member, student, and graduate, but we recognize that leadership in this space provides the focus and intellectual capital needed to advance our work and improve our community. To that end, we were so pleased to hire Dr. Leah Gordon as Assistant Director for Multicultural Affairs and Inclusion after a short stint as an academic counselor in the School of Nursing. Already, she has made the IHP more responsive to student needs and more informed about strategies to improve our community. In addition, Dr. Kimberly Truong has been hired as the Executive Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion starting July 8. She and Leah will work together to provide direction and focus for this important work in our community.

Even with these steps, we acknowledge that our efforts are—and will always be—a work in progress. Our path toward inclusive excellence will help us enhance the structure for academic excellence. I see this as a journey, both personal and professional, and one which I look forward to sharing with you.

May 2019: Asking – and Answering – the Big Questions

I recently read an article that stimulated some thinking that is not part of my usual day-to-day thought processes. The article, “Can students handle the big questions?” was about a philosophy course at Notre Dame that encourages students to think about things like “How do you decide what to believe?”, “What do you think your moral obligations are?”, and “What will it take for your life to have mattered?”

I started thinking about how these questions, which really are part of everyone’s life, often get pushed aside because we are too busy studying for the next exam, writing the next manuscript, or, in my case, leading a complex organization. As health care providers, these questions in many ways are more important for us to wrestle with.

I began to think back on my entry into health care delivery. I was a young graduate nurse, only 19, when I began taking care of patients at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, CT. As a new nurse, I had little life experience that I could use to reconcile the challenges patients and their families were experiencing. I had to grapple with the complex questions that most of us in health care have to grapple with, such as “How can I help this patient and his family as they experience death?”, “What can I do for parents who are watching their child suffer through the pain of treatment?”, and “How can I make a difference in this patient’s life?”

Allowing myself to contemplate these questions and others as a I grew into a health care professional was an important part of my development and has shaped how I see my place in the world today. Unlike the students in the Notre Dame course, I didn’t learn this in my nursing education; rather, I believe it came with the territory of being a health care provider.

I began to think about how the members of the Class of 2019 are reconciling these questions for themselves. I know the rigor of the IHP curriculum and the commitment of our students to excellence. Studying, writing, and clinical practice often takes precedence over reflection, contemplation, and deep thought. But as health care providers, our new graduates will be facing complex and emotionally challenging situations on almost a daily basis. How are they going to know what they believe? How are they going to decide what their moral obligation is in a certain situation? How are they going to construct their life in a way that truly matters? The article’s author suggests that asking these questions, wrestling with the answers, and letting reason take us to unexpected places will help us grow in our thinking about big issues. 

As a health care provider, it’s not if you will face a complex issue that will have moral consequences, it’s when and how often. I encourage our new graduates to take time to reflect on these “big questions” as you approach starting your careers. For all of us in the IHP community, taking a moment to reflect on these important issues may help us get to our better self. 


April 2019: The Impact of the President's Budget Proposal

Dear IHP community,

As I read the news report on the President’s budget request released on March 11, I became interested in how the $7 billion cut in the Department of Education budget would affect the IHP community and our students. I am worried about the borrowing capacity of our students as well as their ability to rely on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Then I realized that the IHP community is directly affected by the budgetary proposal in two important areas: education and health care.

I thought it might be helpful to summarize the proposed changes in President Trump’s budget. We all have a responsibility to be knowledgeable about the proposed changes and work as individuals to make sure that our elected representatives know how we feel about the changes. The IHP will be voicing our concern over proposed changes to student aid and the student loan process as well as other areas of the President’s budget that negatively affect higher education and access to and delivery of health care. 

Highlights of the proposed changes affecting higher education include:

  • Several of the undergraduate grant programs such as Pell and SEOG will either be cut or eliminated. 
  • The Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) which is a student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds will be cut by $110 million on a $950 million budget.
  • There will be the elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • In addition, there is a proposal to streamline in the Income Driven Repayment Program (IDR) – increasing the forgiveness period to 30 years for graduate students.

Highlights of the proposed changes affecting health care include:

  • Nearly $1.5 trillion would be cut from Medicaid over 10 years. The budget also ends funding for Medicaid expansion, the program that allows the working poor to be able to get Medicaid services among other benefits.
  • Medicare spending would be reduced by $800 billion over 10 years. 
  • There would be a cut of $900 million from the National Cancer Institute’s budget and an additional $1 billion from the NIH for medical research.
  • On the positive side, an additional $292 million would go to curb the spread of HIV with a portion of that going to the CDC to improve diagnosis and testing for HIV in areas where infected people are not getting proper treatment.

From all that I have read, it is unlikely that this proposed budget will pass a divided Congress, but it does let us know what the President thinks is a priority. By April 15, Congress will pass its budget resolution to guide decision-making for 12 appropriation subcommittees, which begin hearings on specific proposals. This process could last into the summer.

As President of the IHP, I am concerned about the provisions in the budget that could affect our students such as those that reduce access to loan dollars and making the loan dollars that are available harder to obtain. I worry about the recommendation to eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, a program many of students benefit from.

I also worry about our society. As we enter a time when our population is aging, and there is a significant physician shortage, and our societal challenges require the kind of attention provided by health care providers, we can’t afford to prepare fewer providers...we need more. Anything that will constrict the pipeline that prepares health care providers is counter to our preferred future as a country.   

As health care providers, we have a responsibility to advocate for our patients not only in the clinical setting but in the policy arena. Reducing access and limiting coverage for individuals who are already experiencing the challenges of poverty, illness, and disability will only serve to further erode the fabric of our families and communities in most need. Our voice must be heard on behalf of those individuals we care for, who have not yet found their voice. 

I encourage you to read the proposed budget and make up you own mind on where you stand on the issues. We are a community that values all kinds of diversity including diversity of thought. Whatever you decide, make your voice heard. Make sure your legislator knows how you feel. Continue to be part of the solution by seeking ways to improve access and care. Being a health care provider requires us to shape the health care delivery system for the benefit of our patients. Let’s make sure we all raise our voices on these important issues. 

March 2019: What are the Sustainable Development Goals, and what do they have to do with us? 

Developed by the United Nations (UN), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal set of goals, targets, and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their social policy agendas and political policies over the next 15 years. Established in 2015, they are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The SDGs continue the success of the Millennium Development Goals, but are far more comprehensive because they include such aspects as climate change, economic equality, innovation, and peace and justice. In short, they are a comprehensive agenda that countries can use to take bold and transformational steps to improve our world and make sure it is sustainable for our future. While some support for programs to achieve these goals will come from the United Nations Development Programme, there is not worldwide consensus on how these goals and their targets will be funded.

The list of the 17 SDGs (see below) begins with End Poverty in All Its Forms Everywhere, because ending poverty is the greatest global challenge and a critical component of sustainable development. Other SDGs include aspects of gender equality and empowering women and girls, promoting well-being for all ages, and taking action to combat climate change and its impact.

While I can see the work of the IHP in almost all of these SDGs, I want to recognize our work in the area of climate change with our new Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice and Health. The mission of this interprofessional Center, anchored in the School of Nursing, is to lead nurses and other health professionals in responding to the impact of climate change, climate justice, and health through education, research, and advocacy.

One of the targets of the SDG climate change goal is to improve education and raise awareness and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning. The Center’s faculty, through their scholarly work, are fully addressing this target by publishing important and impactful papers, disseminating their scholarship at meetings and in formal conference presentations, and planning to host a national conference on climate change, climate justice and health at the IHP in April. Their advocacy in our local communities is changing the way Charlestown is looking at issues of climate change. This scholarship is an exemplar of how we, as IHP scholars, can impact health and change the world.

While the Center for Climate Change, Climate Justice and Health is one example of how our faculty are addressing the SDGs, there are multiple other ways we are impacting the world and its future. Our international experiences are designed to be both a health professional educational experience and a cultural immersion opportunity. Our faculty and students enter countries with the objective to learn local health care methods and make an impact on the community through their work. Professor Rawan AlHeresh in her work in a refugee camp in Jordan and Professor Elissa Ladd in her work training health care professionals in India in interprofessional care are just two examples. And, one does not have to go around the world to see our impact. The work that all of our programs are doing at the Harvard-Kent Elementary School is enriching the lives of the children and the families in that community. Clearly, the IHP touches people’s lives in a way that improves their quality of life. 

I encourage you to take a look at the SDGs and the targets to see where you can fit into the plan for long-term peace and posterity in the world. Several jump out to me, including reducing food insecurity, reducing violence against women, and improving literacy rates, but all are equally important. Because the IHP’s mission is to prepare health professionals and scientists to advance care for a diverse society through leadership in education, clinical practice, research, and community engagement, it looks like we are in a perfect position to contribute significantly to the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Image of UN's sustainability goals

The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


February 2019: Vaccine Hesitancy

In the last week, I have been watching with interest the news coverage of the measles outbreak in Washington state. Given last month’s article on the importance of the influenza vaccine and Partners’ policy for employees, this new measles crisis made me wonder how this kind of outbreak happens.

Measles was thought to be eradicated from the United States in 2000. The vaccine had been widely accepted in the U.S. population and after two doses there is a 97% effectiveness in its prevention. In many states, measles vaccination is required to be enrolled in nursery school or to attend public schools. So what changes made that environment conducive for this outbreak to occur? 

We know that measles is a contagious virus that spreads through the air via coughing and sneezing. Once infected, someone can be contagious for up to four days before they display symptoms and for four more days after symptoms appear. The virus can live for almost two hours in a room where an infected individual has been. One or two out of every 1,000 children who get measles will die from complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The first case in the Washington outbreak has been traced to an international traveler in Clark County who had contact with community groups with low vaccination rates. Washington Department of Health officials identified numerous places where people may have been exposed to the virus. Hawaii also reported two cases of measles in travelers who were infected in Washington before their visit to the Big Island.

Clark County is on the border of Washington and Oregon, with both states allowing the exemption from vaccination for personal reasons beyond the typical medical or religious exemption. In Washington, almost 8% of the children are not vaccinated. But cases of measles have not only occurred in Washington and Hawaii, but also in Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Colorado, California, and Georgia. Officials at the CDC and state health departments expect to see more. 

So why are we seeing a resurgence of measles and some other communicable disease? The World Health Organization describes the concept of vaccine hesitancy as a global problem that requires monitoring. The WHO describes vaccine hesitancy as the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific, varying across time, place, and vaccines. It includes factors such as complacency, convenience, and confidence.

As health care providers, we have an important role to protect our patients and our communities. Recognizing the complexity of the determinants in making the decision about vaccination is the first step. Is there a fear of the sequelae of vaccines or is the hesitancy related to difficulty in getting access to vaccinations? Are there equity issues involved? 

Solutions to address this problem should be multifaceted and local to be most effective. And health care providers need to be informed with data that can speak to the consequences of the decisions that are made. We are the most trusted advisors in communities related to these health care decisions and have a critical role to play in reducing the spread of communicable disease.

For more information on the issue and management of vaccine hesitancy, I invite you to read this  2014 WHO report.

January 2019: Why Getting a Flu Shot Matters – For You and Your Patients

Influenza and Health Care Workers

The IHP this academic year has been part of a major effort by affiliates of the Partners HealthCare system to vaccinate all employees against influenza.

While requiring employees to get a flu shot might seem like an insignificant requirement, Partners entities including the IHP are working to protect patients, students, and employees from the negative consequences of influenza.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are as many as 49 million cases of the flu each year in the United States. In 2017-2018, the flu sent almost one million people to the hospital for care which resulted in approximately 80,000 deaths. Because many who get the flu already are sick, the actual number of deaths may be significantly higher due to hospitals listing a person’s primary chronic illness as the cause. 

Although children, the elderly, and infirm are at the highest risk, the majority of those who die from the flu are adults who are relatively healthy. Clearly, the personal, social, institutional, and economic impact of influenza is significant. 

Surprisingly, in non-mandatory health care settings, the vaccination rate of health care workers is not high. For the 2017-2018 flu season, coverage nationally among health care personnel was 78.4%. The spread of the influenza virus happens mainly by droplets when people cough, sneeze, or talk, and it can reach people as far as six feet away. While the normal duration of flu symptoms is 7-10 days, most people can infect others for 1-2 days before their symptoms develop and for 5-7 days after becoming ill.  As health care providers with regular contact with individuals whose health is compromised, we put our patients in grave danger if we haven’t taken this important precautionary step.

Last summer, the policy requiring all Partners employees receive the influenza immunization by November 30, 2018, was instituted. There are only exemptions are for those with deeply held religious beliefs against immunization, and those with medical contraindications.

I am pleased to report that 100% of IHP faculty and staff, who did not cite one of the two above conditions, received their flu shot, while the compliance rate at all Partners affiliates is 99.9%. Thank you for doing your part to keep everyone whom you treat and meet as safe as possible.

December 2018: What is health system science and why is it important for health professionals?

There is no doubt that health care delivery is increasing in complexity. We are faced with new models of reimbursement based on changing federal regulations, the social determinants of health that often drive patient care and influence patient outcomes, and the infusion of artificial intelligence into all aspects of our care. The health care provider of today and in the future has to know about dimensions of health care that go beyond the basic science, physiological, and clinical care dimensions to the systems of care that affect patient care and outcomes. The ability to appreciate and understand the health system in which care is provided and its impact on patient outcomes is critical to becoming an effective health care provider.

Health system science is defined as the principles, methods, and practice of improving quality, outcome, and costs of health care delivery for patients and populations within systems of medical care (Skochelak et. al., 2017). When Berwick described the Triple Aim of Health Care in 2008, the three aspects of that model were enhancing the patient experience, improving population health, and reducing cost. Berwick and his successors recognized the critical impact the environment of care plays on the health outcomes of our patients. They recognized that an understanding of the physiology of the disease and the clinical manifestations were necessary elements of health care provider education, but they were not sufficient.

Health system science builds on the Triple Aim defined by Berwick. There are six core domains that make up the conceptual model of health system science: health care structures and processes; health care policy, economics and management; clinical informatics/health information technology; population health; and value-based care and health system improvement (Skochelak et. al., 2017). These are important content areas because without an understanding of these areas, providers will be handicapped in their ability to effectively help their patients and lead their organizations.

However, I think the more interesting dimensions of the health system science model are the cross-cutting domains that bring together or set apart the issues of individual patient care and the system in which the care is provided. The five areas identified as cross-cutting domains are: leadership and change agency; teamwork and interprofessional education; evidence-based medicine and practice; professionalism and ethics; and scholarship (Skochelak et. al., 2017).

As I reflected on the impact of these cross-cutting domains in our curricula at the IHP, I was encouraged by how much of our curricula is either guided by these domains or squarely represented in individual courses. You can find threads of each one of these domains in the IMPACT courses that students participate in over the course of their curriculum. The IHP is a model for how these cross-cutting domains are represented in a health professions curriculum. The result is that our graduates have a unique set of skills that will advance not only individual health care but the health care of the population.

Skochelak et. al., 2017, write that health care providers have to pay attention to the complex web of interdependencies, have an awareness of the whole and not just the parts, and be able to recognize multidirectional cause-effect relationships. She goes on to say that systems thinking allows a student to understand the influence of levels of health insurance coverage on the determinants of health within a community, and as a result, the ability for his or her patients to access health care and adhere to a care plan. I feel confident in saying that this description exemplifies an IHP graduate.

For more information about health system science, please see: Skochelak, S., Hawkins, R., Lawson, L., Starr, S., Borkan. J. & Gonzalo, J. (2017). Health System Science. American Medical Association/Elsevier.

November 2018: Ballot Question 3: We Must Maintain Protections for Transgender Persons

In October, I wrote my blog post with Dean Inez Tuck to discuss ballot Question 1, Mandatory Nurse Staffing Ratios. This month, I explore another very important question that Massachusetts citizens will decide on November 6: Question 3, Maintaining Transgender Protections in Public Places.

As we said in our last blog, knowing the issues and being prepared to vote based on your full understanding of these questions is critical, especially since this is the first state-wide referendum in the country dealing with transgender rights.

In 2016, Massachusetts expanded an existing state law to include prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in places open to the public, including restaurants, hospitals, hotels, sports stadiums, and gym locker rooms. It mandated that transgender people can use the space that matches their gender identity and prevented the owner or manager of a public space from using signage that discriminates based on gender identity.

Question 3 asks voters to decide if these rights accorded to transgender people should be eliminated. Opponents have identified several reasons why this law should be repealed, none of which are grounded in fact or supported by the data. They fear opportunistic individuals could exploit the law to access women’s spaces like restrooms or locker rooms. A recent study by the ACLU found no change in the number of criminal incidents in bathrooms in Massachusetts after cities and towns passed laws protecting transgender people in public restrooms. 

Opponents also suggest that people will inappropriately identify as transgender to prey on vulnerable people. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy stated that in 18 others states that have these gender identity anti-discrimination laws, the “improper assertion of gender identity is extremely rare.” The fines and penalties are significant and clear for that rare individual who claims a false gender identity.   

The 2011 state law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, credit, and public education do not come under this ballot question and will remain intact regardless of the November 6 outcome. In 2016, the Massachusetts Legislature was on the cutting edge in passing a transgender rights law validating the equal rights of transgender people in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts once again will have an opportunity to lead the country by standing up for transgender protections by voting YES on Question 3.    

I also want to share with you that, on a national level, transgender rights are coming under assault. The Trump administration just this month announced it is considering rolling back President Obama-era regulations that loosened the legal concept of gender in federal programs. If enacted, this change would eradicate federal recognition from the 1.4 million Americans who identify as a gender different from what they were born. This federal proposal is inconsistent with the diversity, equity, and inclusion values of the IHP, and we stand ready to support members of our community who would be affected by this.

A recent email sent out by MGH administration (below) identifies resources for individuals who might need help coping with this recent negative trend. The IHP Human Resources Department and the Office of Student and Alumni Affairs also can provide support to faculty, staff, and students. Anyone needing help should know there is support in our community that they can access. 

Statement by Massachusetts General Hospital on Question 3
October 24, 2018

This week we learned that the federal government may attempt to change the legal definition of gender to one that does not reflect current scientific and medical knowledge and could restrict rights and reduce protections for transgender and non-binary individuals. This news is very disturbing to us and upsetting for some members of our hospital family who are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety and fear. As health care providers, we understand the importance of offering a supportive and inclusive healing environment, particularly for those experiencing identity-based social and health disparities.

This summer, we shared with you the steps that we have taken to strengthen and grow our programs to ensure a welcoming, safe, and affirming environment for transgender and non-binary individuals. We want to take this opportunity to remind our community of our commitment and specific initiatives:

We will continue to monitor developments in Washington and provide updates as indicated. In the meantime, our hospital community will lead by example and the words in our Diversity and Inclusion Statement: “Our job is to improve health and save lives, regardless of what our patients or colleagues look like, where they come from, what they believe or who they love.”

Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH President

Timothy G. Ferris, MD, MGPO CEO

O’Neil Britton, MD, Chief Medical Officer, MGH

Marcela del Carmen, MD, Chief Medical Officer, MGPO

Debbie Burke, DNP, Senior Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nurse

October 2018: A look at Massachusetts’ Nurse Staffing Ratio Ballot Initiative Question 1

NOTE: This month’s column is co-authored by President Paula Milone-Nuzzo and School of Nursing Dean Inez Tuck.

On November 6, the voting citizens of Massachusetts will be asked to cast their ballot, either in support of or against Question 1, which defines mandated nursing staff ratios in hospitals. 

If passed, Question 1 will have a lasting impact on health care delivery in the Commonwealth for years to come. While there are studies that report a link between nurse staff ratios and quality and patient safety metrics, a one-size-fits-all model does not take into consideration other factors such as patient acuity levels, the educational preparation of the nursing staff, nor size and type of hospitals. While California is the only state with mandated staffing ratios for nurses, Massachusetts hospitals - despite not having mandates - have higher quality metrics than those in California.

If enacted, every hospital, regardless of patient population or acuity, would have to abide by a rigid set of proposed staffing ratios without consideration of time of day or clinical circumstances. For example, the proposed staffing ratio for a medical surgical unit is one nurse to four patients yet we know that the acuity of patients is far different in a community hospital in central Massachusetts than it is in a quaternary health care facility in Boston. Nurse directors have the responsibility for assessing their unit’s clinical situation to determine appropriate staffing ratios that will meet patient needs. Mandated staffing ratios remove using professional judgment to make the right decision for patients. It also fails to recognize that care is provided by interprofessional teams of health professionals. By mandating only nursing ratios, the role of the team in providing high quality care would be diminished.

Just as important are the real workforce issues that must be considered. It is estimated that Massachusetts would need 6,000 additional nurses to meet the law’s minimum staffing ratio when the law is enacted, with another 1,500 nurses needed shortly thereafter due to retirements. A quick look at the numbers show it would take years to meet the workforce demands that these ratios would require. Massachusetts currently has 8,000 students in 25 baccalaureate and higher-degree programs that produces 2,000 graduates each year. While enrollments in entry-level baccalaureate programs increase approximately 4.3% annually, that number falls far short of meeting the demands of this new law. 

Over the last seven years, the nursing profession has been undergoing a transformation to meet the complex needs of patients. In 2011, the Future of Nursing report called to raise the number of bachelor’s-prepared nurses to 80% by 2020. This goal, using the research done by Aiken (2003, 2016) and others (Blegan et al, 2013, Liao et al, 2016), demonstrated a clear link between higher levels of nursing education and improved patient outcomes. While the goal has not yet been reached, the needle is moving in that direction. But that could be reversed as health care facilities scramble to meet the new staffing requirements. If hospitals are forced to close units or limit admitting patients, it will severely impact the availability of the clinical placements nursing students require to complete their education.

There are many questions that need to be answered. What will hospitals and employers do to meet these new staffing ratios? Will there be unintended consequences? One possibility is that hospitals would be forced to hire more associate degree-prepared nurses, undercutting the Future of Nursing’s target and jeopardizing the goal of better patient care that the law’s supporters tout. Or, hospitals could meet these new staffing requirements by hiring away BSNs from nursing homes and assisted living facilities, thus reducing patient care at those facilities.

The decision to vote yes or no on Question 1 in November is not an insignificant one. Creating a health care delivery system bound by new regulations and mandated staffing ratios will add another layer of external regulation, strain the ability of nursing schools to produce bachelor-prepared nurses, and jeopardize patient care at non-acute facilities. We encourage you look at the issue comprehensively to make a thoughtful decision.

September 2018: Much to Be Proud of at Start of New Academic Year

Welcome to the start of the 2018-2019 academic year. For our new students, I want to share that I was in your position last year at this time and was nervous about joining the IHP. We all want you to know how glad we are you decided to join this wonderful academic institution that will prepare you for a lifetime of opportunity. We will do everything we can to help you succeed.

For our returning students, I hope you had a little time to rest and renew this summer and you are excited to continue your learning. For our faculty and staff, I hope the past few months were enjoyable and restful, with intermittent bouts of productivity, recognizing that for some, summer schedules seem to slow down a bit. 

We are starting the new academic year on a high note. The following are just some examples of the achievements of the IHP community over the past 12 months.

We are excited about the aspirational goals in the new 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. Many members of the IHP community spent the summer working on the implementation plan associated with those goals, and we will begin over the course of this year launching new initiatives which will begin to shape our future.

Last May, we graduated 583 students, the largest class of health professionals in our history. We celebrated the new graduates, who were accompanied by their families and friends at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center, as future leaders in their respective field.

Our research programs have continued to flourish and make an impact on best practices in patient care. They are focusing on areas that can make a real difference in people’s lives and include such areas as improving student outcomes, brain recovery after accident or injury, and improving speech and feeding in patients with neurological impairments.

Our researchers have been incredibly productive and successful, increasing our collective grant portfolio to $3,327,942 in FY18 – a 47 percent increase over FY17. And it’s expected to get even better in FY19, with grants projected to rise to $4,342,038. In addition to allowing faculty to work on innovative ways to improve patient care, grants also provide students exceptional opportunities to learn about research and contribute to the development of knowledge.

We also opened and named the Dr. Charles and Ann Sanders IMPACT Practice Center (IPC) to house under one roof all of our patient care centers where students can incorporate their interprofessional education by caring for patients under the watchful eyes of our faculty. At July’s naming ceremony, stroke patient Richie Arsenault gave a moving story about how the care he has received at the Aphasia Center over the past several years has completely transformed his life. Second-year DPT student Emma Laird spoke about the impact the IPC had on her learning. “Nothing prepares you for the real world like the real world,” she told the audience. Her experiences in the IPC prepared her to be the confident clinician into which she is growing. Truly, we have so much of which to be proud.

As everyone settles into their new environment or prepare for a new academic year, I want to encourage the entire IHP community to commit to making our environment a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive community. Reach out to our new students and employees to see if they need any help adjusting to this transition. Be that warm, welcoming presence for people who are new to your program or office. Recognize that change requires us to listen thoughtfully to other perspectives and respect the valves and views of others.

Ours is a community where we recognize we have room to grow. We take very seriously our new Strategic Priorities that state, in part, “build and nurture a diverse and inclusive Institute community that welcomes and values the contributions of all and provides the experience and tools for students to ably serve diverse populations.” We also recognize that as a community, we must commit to being open to embracing ideas and concepts around social justice and equity that will help us improve.

To that end, the members of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council stand ready to provide leadership in this area. But it will take every member of the community, working together, to create a more just and equitable environment. I invite everyone join the DEI members in that effort.  

So, welcome to the 2018-2019 academic year. I look forward to having many opportunities to interact with faculty, staff, students, and alumni over the coming months. And, if you see me around campus or in Charlestown, please say hello. Enjoy!

August 2018: A Look Back at Year 1

As I complete my first year as president of the MGH Institute, I’ve taken some time to reflect on the challenges and opportunities I faced over the past year and the excitement I feel for the future.

As with any major life transition, I came to the IHP with great excitement and enthusiasm for having the opportunity to join a great institution. I knew the quality of the academic programs by reputation and I was looking forward to the opportunity to dive deeper into the rehabilitation professions of physical, speech, and occupational therapy, physician assistant studies, and genetic counseling, having spent more than 30 years in nursing education. I was thrilled to be living in Boston and I could not think of being in a more beautiful environment than the Navy Yard. It was an honor to be chosen as president but I also understood the deep responsibility that comes with that appointment so I read books such as “On Being Presidential” and “How to Run a College.” I also knew I had a lot to learn about communicating and working with the Board of Trustees. 

With that excitement and enthusiasm came a whole host of anxieties and fears. Would I be able to make the change from rural Pennsylvania to living in the city? How would I be accepted into this community?  Would I love this new role and feel like I was contributing in a meaningful way? Would I have an opportunity to engage with faculty, staff, students, and alumni in ways that make me remember why I love academic administration? Happily, the answer to all these questions is a resounding “Yes!” 

We moved close to the IHP so I could walk to work and be a contributing member of the neighborhood. Our new home is great, and we love being integrated into the Charlestown community and close to everything we need. The IHP community welcomed me with open arms and you have embraced me as one of your own.  This a unique and very special group of incredible individuals who share a common purpose and mission that bind us together, but it’s each individual’s commitment to the values of respect, collegiality, and community that makes this such a very special place. As the year has progressed, I have come to understand more clearly the president’s role and have embraced both the ceremonial aspects as well as the projects that let me roll up my sleeves and get immersed in the work of the organization.

Being new gave me a certain license to reach out to people in Greater Boston and I have enjoyed taking the IHP’s message to many individuals and organizations during the past year. I discovered the school’s mission is often misunderstood or unknown, and this issue is being addressed with the current branding review. I was most pleased to learn that I have the opportunity to have meaningful engagement with students, staff and faculty, both informally and in formal settings. I started my career as a faculty member because I wanted to work with students. I then became a dean because I wanted to foster the work of faculty and staff. So now as president, I looked forward to interacting in a meaningful way with the IHP community. 

As my second year begins, I am excited about the future. The Institute continues its tradition of academic excellence, and we are excited for the opening of the genetic counseling program in the fall of 2019. Our new bold and innovative 2018 – 2022 Strategic Plan will take us in some new directions and add strength to some areas where we have solid foundations. But I am mostly grateful to have joined this wonderful community of scholars, students, staff, and graduates who have allowed me to be their partner in the Institute’s work. It’s been a great year, and I look forward to many more to come.

July 2018: Students’ 2017 Diversity and Climate Survey Results

The IHP has a strong history of looking internally to assess its strengthens and weaknesses. Since 2011, we have asked questions about the school’s climate and the perceptions of various constituent units (faculty, staff, students) on their feelings around value, inclusiveness, and relationships. 

But one question remained: Were we getting comprehensive information from all our constituents in a timely and organized way?  

In 2016, a task force of the Diversity Council (now called the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council) was formed to examine this question. Each year, the IHP engages in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For” survey. The survey provides extensive data about how faculty and staff feel about campus climate issues, and the task force decided a separate set of questions was not needed for those audiences.

To solicit more comprehensive input from students, the task force developed a series of questions to more fully measure student perceptions. After being piloted to a small group of students, a process that included multiple iterations of changes and improvements, the Diversity Council approved the survey. To ensure every student has an opportunity to participate, a calendar for assessment was developed surveying students at the mid-point of their education. Below are the results from the 2017 Diversity and Climate survey.  

Overall, 140 students out of 446 completed the 27-question anonymous survey, a 31% response rate. Program participation varied from 8% to 41%. Quantitatively, there was little variation among programs. The comments section yielded many responses that helped inform the quantitative data. After reading all the responses, a few themes stood out. Let me say that this is by no means a qualitative study of the data, but rather my perceptions of the data after reviewing it several times.

First, several of the suggestions have already been addressed or are in the process of being implemented. For example, we have created an anonymous feedback form where students can voice a complaint or concern. Another frequent comment was the need to hire more faculty of color. This issue is included in the Institute’s new Strategic Plan, and we will be developing a detailed strategy to achieve that goal.

Most troubling to me were the comments that suggested some students feel little will be done with the evaluations they provide. We hope to change that perception by developing a process to communicate and address concerns, ideas, and recommendations.       

Many students commented on their relationships with their professors. Some felt their professors were supportive, engaged, and interested in their success, while others sometimes felt talked down to by professors, disrespected by their preceptors, and unable to engage in intellectual discourse with faculty.

Some comments focused on improving the course content on multiculturalism, diversity, and racial identity while others focused on course sequencing, interprofessional experiences, and facilitating conversions about social issues in the classroom.

A few students commented on the difficulty they felt fitting into the IHP. Those who identified themselves as older than the average student, had family responsibilities, children, or were working in addition to going to school commented on their inability to feel engaged and welcomed. Some students talked about having difficulty because of political ideology or beliefs, and others felt unable to openly discuss issues of social justice or share their perspective because of feeling misunderstood or chastised for having an opinion that is different from their peers. Still others commented about feeling the effects of racism on campus and the inability to have open conversations about how race and health intersect. 

But the largest number of responses focused on relationships with other students. While many appreciated the diverse perspectives and support from their peers, some students said that they did not always feel comfortable in class and at the Institute. Consistent with the above comments, some students felt that they just did not fit in because they held opinions that different from the majority view. Others felt belittled or afraid to speak up for fear of irritating others in class. Also, some students described a lack of opportunity for informal/social meetings that they felt would help build relationships and foster constructive conversation.

The survey results provide numerous insights into ways we can improve our curriculum, our relationships, and our ability to create an open, safe, and respectful environment. Now, the most important part: what will we do with these data? 

First, each dean and program chair have received the data for their respective department or school. The Provost, the Associate Provost, and the Dean of Students and Alumni received a full report on all the data. The Institute leadership will discuss these results with their faculty and make recommendations for change where appropriate. The data also will go to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council for review and recommendations. Student leadership serves on the DEI Council and will be there for this discussion. 

Since this was the first time using this instrument to measure diversity and climate in students, we will use these data as a baseline measurement for the data collected in the 2018 year and beyond. As each year’s data are collected, IHP leadership and the DEI Council will review them in light of information from the prior year(s).

Please reach out if you have any questions about the survey, the quantitative or qualitative data, or issues of diversity and inclusion at the IHP. I look forward to hearing from you.

June 2018: A Month of Transition

May was an exciting month for me as president of the IHP. I was extremely fortunate to be part of my first Commencement, where we conferred degrees to 583 students that our outstanding faculty have prepared to enter the world of health care and improve the lives of patients, families, and communities. 

Since I arrived, I was told how incredibly inspiring, moving, and well-organized Commencement is. What I found on May 14 was that these attributes were not overstated. The Boston Convention and Exposition Center was the perfect venue for honoring and celebrating our graduates and their families. The ceremony was dignified but joyful, providing recognition to alumni award winners and faculty leaders but keeping the focus on the graduates who were the reason why we were there. In addition to the more than 2,000 people in attendance, there were over 150 people from several countries watching a live broadcast of the event. The entire day ran like clockwork because of our exceptional staff who were everywhere, providing help and direction to all who needed it. 

Since this was my first graduation ceremony, I was asked by the Board of Trustees to provide the keynote address. I was extremely honored to share my insights with the graduates and be the one who sent them off into the world of health care. I encouraged them to think about the world and health care system they are entering, to remember that the work they do is so important, and that they, uniquely, can provide the care their patients need and deserve. Health care is complex and always evolving – such as the addition of artificial intelligence which promises to change the way they work and provide care – and there will be times when they feel frustrated and overwhelmed. But I assured them the rewards far surpass the challenges.

I gave the graduates three pieces of advice.

  • Engage their patients with empathy, recognizing and feeling their perspectives.  The importance of the ability to care and put yourself in someone else shoes cannot be overstated.
  •  Have the courage to always work with integrity.
  • Find the time to renew and rejuvenate, because providing health care is difficult. Resilience is an important characteristic if one is to have a long and successful career in health care. 

As we were launching the Class of 2018 into the health care world, May was also when we were welcoming 285 new physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistant, and nursing students to the IHP. Each of these students come to us with the excitement of achieving the goal of changing their lives and becoming a health care provider. The Institute and the faculty share that excitement as we work together to help new students achieve their goals. We are so honored they have chosen the IHP as the place where they will fulfill their journey to a career in which they will impact the lives of thousands of patients in the coming years. 

While May is behind us, our work of educating students and engaging alumni continues. I hope you take time this summer to reflect and renew so that you can experience the resilience that I encouraged our new graduates to develop.

May 2018: Visit to China Could Reap Dividends

IHP delegation in China

View photos from the trip.

Last month, Provost Alex Johnson, Dean Inez Tuck, Assistant Professor John Wong, and I spent three days in the Shenzhen region of China meeting with the leadership of three hospitals about establishing relationships that could eventually create opportunities to send students to the institutions for clinical experiences, develop faculty research collaborations, and host visiting scholars from China.

We visited the Shenzhen Baoxin Hospital, the Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat Sen University, and the Nan’ao Peoples Hospital. The visits were set up by Dr. Wong, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing who has a long history of collaboration with these three institutions.

We began our three-day visit at Shenzhen Baoxin Hospital, a moderate-sized long-term rehabilitation and tertiary-care facility started by a family over 20 years ago, where we witnessed therapy care that was both comprehensive and modern. Patients with debilitating strokes and neuromuscular diseases receive therapy from physical therapists, speech-language therapists, and occupational therapists in addition to medical care provided by nurses and physicians. We learned the therapists are prepared through this program, with their specialization occurring through their clinical experiences.  

In addition to Western medicine, patients with intractable pain were treated with traditional Chinese techniques. The hospital has a clinic dedicated to strategies such as acupuncture, acupressure, cupping, and massage, and it has a large unit that provides long-term renal dialysis to patients with kidney failure.

The tour concluded when we participated in a forum on rehabilitation and care of the elderly, sharing our insights on such areas as interprofessional education and practice, person-centered care, and palliative care. 

That evening, we had dinner with the administration of Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat Sen University. They were very interested in developing a collaboration for their staff and faculty with the IHP to learn more about rehabilitation and health care. 

The next day, Dean Tuck, Professor- Wong, and I participated in “Preparing for an Aging Society,” a full-day symposium hosted by Nan’ao Peoples Hospital. This hospital, which is older and more rural than Shenzhen Baoxin Hospital, also is interested in sending people to the IHP and accepting our nursing and rehabilitative-care students.  

My first trip to China more than 30 years ago was a life-changing experience – something that would forever change the way I see health care delivery. While the United States’ system has many strengths, it was in China that I first saw a network in which family and community involvement is considered a primary way to recover from and even prevent illness and disease. This dual focus allows them to provide quality health care despite few resources.

Sending students to China, and hosting scholars from these three hospitals, would fit well with the core IHP goal of preparing health care professionals to work with a diverse society. I am confident our highly productive visit will result in collaborative opportunities in the coming years.

April 2018: Strategic Plan Input from Community

In last month’s column, I shared the development of the IHP’s 2018-2021 strategic plan. We continue to make progress and are hopeful that it will be ready for the start the new academic year this fall.

As part to the process, I asked the IHP community for input on issues they wanted to share with the strategic planning consultants and myself. Although we had great turnout at all three town hall meetings for faculty, staff, and students, I thought it was important for people to voice their concerns anonymously or provide input if they were unable to attend a meeting. 

Fourteen messages were submitted by members of the IHP community – five by faculty, six by staff, and three by students. Reading them, I was impressed by how thoughtful and constructive they were. Most were anonymous but if the submitter left his/her name, I responded to them directly. For issues we could address now I addressed the issue/recommendation with the person who has responsibility for that part of the school. More complex issues were passed on for consideration in the strategic plan.

Four messages focused on the campus space and services.  One student suggested longer study hours on weekends. Chief Information and Facilities Officer Denis Stratford said news about extended hours on Saturdays and Sundays will be forthcoming soon. Another message suggested centralizing the system of meeting clinical site requirements, news of which we recently shared with the launch of the Office of Compliance and Contracts that will handle both student placements and obtaining contacts with clinical partners.  

Two messages addressed the Institute’s finances. The first suggested reevaluating the cost and benefits of hosting an annual gala to support student scholarships. In discussions with the Development office, we feel the gala has outlived its benefit and are considering options for different event fundraising strategies to replace it. The second message suggested we invest more in the new IMPACT Practice Center, an important suggestion that will be considered as part of the strategic plan. 

Three messages focused on faculty workload, support, and pay; two addressed leave polices for faculty and staff, specifically maternity and paternity leave; two focused on improving the climate of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and one encouraged increasing our on-line presence to expand our academic offerings. These very important issues will be considered as we develop the tactics and implementation options for our new strategic plan. 

I want to thank everyone who took the time to write about an issue about which they are passionate. Please be assured that every message has been heard and we will address your concerns. Your input will make the IHP a better community.     

March 2018: 2018-2021 Strategic Plan Update

Strategic planning is an organizational activity that occurs every 3-5 years and often can take on a life of its own. Since the IHP began the process last fall of creating a new strategic plan for 2018-2021, we have worked to streamline the process, add capacity to help us be successful, and create a timeline that will not result in burden on any of the people involved in the process. 

A good strategic plan is important for many reasons. It helps us set a clear direction and establish our priorities so we can focus on the areas that will have the biggest positive impact on the IHP. It aligns resources and ensure strategies are appropriately funded before considering new initiatives. And it is used as a map for making decisions and evaluating our work. In short, it allows us to decide where and how to compete, which includes choosing what to do as well as what not to do.

Last October, we engaged the consulting firm of Altshuler and Staats to help us develop a new strategic plan. Jill Altshuler and Sara Staats have a long history working with colleges, as well as Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Following several meetings with me, they met in December with the Executive Council where they reviewed the IHP’s mission, vision, and values, and discussed approaches to take in developing our new plan. In January, Jill and Sara led a retreat with the Executive Council, the Academic Council, and selected Institute leaders where we brainstormed ideas about what aspirational goals the Institute should focus on over the next four years. 

In addition, there was a great turnout of faculty, staff, and students for the Town Hall meetings where you provided your unique perspectives on the IHP’s future. Additional ideas and thoughts that have been submitted to an electronic suggestion form have been added to those developed at the January retreat.

On March 1, the Executive Council will review the complete set of ideas the consultants collected, and will identify a draft of strategic priorities that will be presented to the Board of Trustees at its March 8 strategic planning retreat. Ultimately, we anticipate having our new strategic plan completed by this fall.

I want to thank all of you who have participated in this process and shared your ideas and vision for the IHP’s future. I look forward to sharing our new strategic plan with everyone in the coming months. 

February 2018: Working to Achieve the Values of Respect, Dignity, and Inclusiveness

When I arrived at the IHP last August, I made a pledge to the community that we would work together toward an environment that was committed to learning about, respecting, and valuing each member. Our goals include a future where we can have open conversations about issues and the respectful exchange of opinions and ideas—a community that is safe for all. I repeated that vision at my inauguration and stated the importance of living and acting these values. Words are just not enough to make the kinds of change needed as a society. 

The IHP is progressing on its journey toward achieving the values of respect, dignity, and inclusiveness that are so important to our mission. The Diversity Council has taken that charge seriously and has made some major changes that will define our work throughout the rest of this year and beyond.

First, it is now called the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. This is not a simple name change, nor is it about achieving the “right number” of diverse students, faculty, and staff. Rather, the new name recognizes that we are committed making our campus an environment in which every person feels valued and included.  

Second was to add students to the Council to provide a critical perspective that had been missing. Five students attended the most recent meeting in November, and we expect them to continue adding their insights and suggestions going forward.

Third, the Council has identified four high priority activities in which to engage over in the coming year:

  1. Recognize and increase student voices on DEI issues.  Chair: Jack Gormley
  2. Increase the number of faculty from diverse backgrounds. Chair: Peter Cahn
  3. Examine aspects of each program’s curriculum to integrate content on the social determinants of health, justice, and issues of health equity. Chair:  Charley Haynes
  4. Plan and execute an IHP community event in the fall of 2018 to explore an important issue related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Chair:  Paul Murphy

In addition, four subcommittees have been established and will focus on each of the initiatives, with initial results expected in the coming months. I encourage you to contact their respective chair if you are interested in participating.

I will keep you informed of our work as we make progress on these initiatives to ensure there is a transparent process, starting with posting a link to the minutes of each DEI Council meeting on our Diversity webpage. We will let the community know when minutes from upcoming meetings are available.

In my inauguration speech last December, I shared a comment I had heard at a conference which resonated with me. The speaker said, “You can’t talk your way out of something you behaved your way into.” Actions are important, and the new DEI Council is committed to developing and leading initiatives that will improve the Institute regarding these crucial concerns. But it will take everyone in our community to find a way to contribute to our core values of inclusivity, respect, social justice, and health equity for all. I look forward to working with you to ensure that, together, we achieve this important goal.

January 2018: Welcome Back!

Welcome to a new semester and a new year. I hope you all had a restful break with a chance to renew with family and loved ones. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our new class of ABSN students who are arriving on campus this week.

As we close the chapter on 2017, we can look back at a year filled with contrasts. Nationally, we experienced some of the most horrific tragedies seen in our times including national disasters and mass shootings. Locally, we are making significant contributions to improving the lives of residents in the communities in which we live and work. Here at the Institute, ours is a story of service.

In the rush to finish the work of last semester, some of you might not have seen an article from the Office of Communications about the many activities the Institute was engaged in just during the holiday season in service to the community. These activities by students, staff, and faculty included selling pies to raise money to feed ill and homebound individuals in eastern Massachusetts and packing up food boxes for residents of Cambridge who were unable to reach the food pantry.

These dozen activities is just a small sample of what the Institute contributed during 2017, a visible display of our values of service and commitment to help those in need whenever we have the capacity do so. Thank you to all who contributed their time, talent, and resources, and I look forward to 2018 as we continue working to improve the lives of our Charlestown and Greater Boston neighbors.   

On a separate topic, there have been suggestions over the last few months that we revise and renew the online process of sending ideas to me. The new Institute Input form that any member of the IHP or Partners community can use to reach me is now live on the website and on the President’s page on the Intranet. The messages can be anonymous or the sender can include their name and email address. I will read every message and respond to the sender if the e-mail address is included. When appropriate, I will refer it to a member of the senior administrative team for action. Messages can be as simple as letting us know that you are pleased with a certain initiative or more complex such as reporting a situation in which a member of our community did not feel safe or respected. 

Of course, this does not replace our Title IX reporting process for students, faculty, and staff. Our Title IX compliance officers are Sarah Welch for faculty and staff and Dr. Jack Gormley for students. The process for reporting Title IX complaints can be found on the compliance page. I hope this renewed effort at improving communication will create new avenues to share ideas, challenges, and opportunities.

I wish you a peaceful, productive, and healthy 2018.


December 2017: Innovation in Health Care:  What Is the IHP’s Role?

Think back to a time when you didn’t have the right equipment or the right systems in place to provide the kind of patient care you wanted. You might have created your own piece of equipment by taking two objects and holding them together with a clamp, or used an elastic band you found in the nurse’s station to hold a tube in place. Whether you realized it or not, at that moment, you were an innovator. Health care innovation can be defined as the introduction of a new concept, idea, service, process, or product aimed at improving treatment, diagnosis, education, outreach, prevention, and research, and with the long-term goals of improving quality, safety, outcomes, efficiency, and costs.1

Health care providers are masters of the “work around” because we often are faced with providing care in less than optimal circumstances. Because of our clinical expertise and our desire to provide the best care possible, we often design approaches to care that are unique, effective, and sometimes can lower costs.  While not every health care provider has that spirit of innovation, health care institutions, including MGH, are fostering provider innovation with small grants to support ideas that improve the way their facilities operate. Recognizing that the best innovation comes from those who are closest to the challenge, health care facilities are encouraging all heath care providers to be thinking of ways to improve care. 

So what is the role of an academic institution, like the Institute, that prepares health care providers of the future in creating a passion for innovation in its graduates? How can we prepare students for the unknown of the work world? How can we create a climate of innovation on campus? Higher education is traditionally a risk-avoidant environment. We need to provide opportunities and space for faculty and students to take risks and innovate, celebrating both successes and failures. The fear of failing is one of the most significant factors that prevents people from pursuing new ideas and is one of the leading impediments to progress.  

Every day, we need to build educational experiences that encourage innovation, especially those that happen in the interprofessional space. As a leader in interprofessional education, it is particularly important for us to foster innovation as a collaborative effort. Having students engage in entrepreneurial thinking and creativity as part of their interprofessional curriculum will prepare them for a future in which  they can help shape their environment instead of being defined by it.   

You have heard me say many times that our students will change the world. By providing an opportunity for that innovative spirit to grow, we can be assured that it will happen. 

1. Omachonu, V.K.,  Einspruch, N.G. (2010), Innovation in Healthcare Delivery Systems: A Conceptual Framework. The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, Volume 15(1), Article 2.

November 2017: IMPACT Practice Center

On October 19, Board Chair George Thibault and I were pleased to welcome more than 150 guests to the grand opening of the IMPACT Practice Center (IPC) housed at 2 Constitution Center. This incredible learning space will provide important clinical care to clients and through that care, educate our students as collaborative- and team-focused health care providers.

We know that health care professionals have not traditionally been educated in teams to provide care. As a result, care has often been fragmented, sometimes duplicative, costly, and without optimal outcomes. The Institute is committed to transform health care through the education of expert clinicians who will practice in teams and improve patient care, and our graduates are poised to transform health care delivery.

The design of the IPC reflects our belief that clinicians must be able to function as members of interprofessional teams and that their education, in the context of collaborative practice, is essential to their developing a broad understanding of the health care team. The Center has already been called an exemplar for educating health care professionals. To our knowledge, there is no other center devoted to interprofessional education of health care professionals.

The IPC also will be a valuable community resource to clients in need of health and rehabilitative services, families in need of support in caring for individuals with chronic conditions, and groups who will use the Community Room for education or activities. Charlestown and Boston area residents, from two to over 90 years old, can receive screening, rehabilitation, and education and support from an interprofessional team, regardless of their ability to pay. We currently provide more than $1 million of service annually. This new space, with dedicated pediatric room and an adult rehabilitation therapy space, will allow us to double the amount of service provided to Boston area residents. 

That evening, we were honored to welcome Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. He toured the IPC, meeting a cadre of student ambassadors who volunteered their time to speak to our guests at rooms throughout the Center. We also unveiled our first donor wall with over 500 names, celebrating gifts received to date this calendar year. 

Sheeba Arnold then spoke. Her son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and, after a year at another program without progress, they were referred to our Speech, Language and Literacy Center where, as she described movingly, “miracles happen.” Following her remarks, Mayor Walsh gave heartfelt remarks about the excellent work of the IHP in improving care for the citizens of Boston. He then officially cut the ribbon to open the Center. 

Thanks to the exceptional work of the Development team and the Communications team, it was a remarkable evening of educating the community about the IHP and celebrating the wonderful new space. 

Through generous individual and corporate sponsorships as well as ticket sales, we raised almost $200,000 at the event, which replaced our annual gala this year. 

The Center is a fitting tribute to our founders, whose inspirational vision for an interprofessional graduate school resulted in the MGH Institute of Health Professions. I know our students and the community will reap the benefits of this learning space for many years to come.

October 2017: How Genetic Counseling Is Improving Patient Lives

We have all seen the advertisement on television or heard them on the radio. Swab your cheek, send us your DNA, and we will let you know your ancestry and where you came from. Many have taken advantage of this offer, and some have been surprised at the outcome. Others have taken advantage of even more comprehensive testing by having their genome sequenced or receiving gene profiles.

But this leads to a number of questions: What is the reliability of these tests? Who is assuring that the laboratories that are performing these tests are reputable and can provide clinical validity for each test performed?

While the analytic validity of these tests has been regarded as positive1, the need for oversight of these providers is paramount as these tests become more popular and more laboratories enter the industry. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Food and Drug Administration currently share responsibility for oversight of clinical laboratories including genetic testing, although this is inadequate to guarantee the level of quality needed for these important genetic tests.  

Even in the most reliable laboratory settings, patients and families are provided with information they may be unable to understand or know how to deal with. The need for highly skilled providers with the knowledge and experience to assist patients in understanding the results, the impact, and the use of genetic tests that they can have cannot be overemphasized.

The Institute is responding to this opportunity by launching a Master of Science in Genetic Counseling starting in fall 2019. This exciting educational option will join a small number of programs around the country that prepare individuals to work as genetic counselors in myriad settings including inpatient care facilities, clinics, corporations, government, and laboratories. Adding a focused program on genetics and genomics will provide another area of expertise on which all our students can capitalize as they prepare for professional practice.

In the last 20 years, an understanding of genetics and genomics has been a core competency for all health care providers. Patients and the health care system benefit from the many advances in genetics and genomics in areas including disease prevention, testing, diagnosis, treatments, and rehabilitation. All health care providers, armed with a basic understanding of the genetic and genomic changes associated with common diseases, have the potential to improve the identification of individuals at risk for health problems, target risk-reducing interventions, enhance existing screening, improve prognostic and treatment choices, develop individualized therapy, and influence treatment dosing and selection based on genetic variations that influence drug response2.  

At the IHP, we prepare students to translate knowledge into practice. By adding genetic counseling to our suite of academic programs, we will improve our ability to prepare health care providers who have a broad, deep, and comprehensive understanding of the patients they encounter and the knowledge and skills to improve care.

1. Hunter, D; Khoury, M; Drazen, J; Letting the genome out of the bottle--will we get our wish? New England Journal of Medicine 2008; 358:105-107.

2. Calzone, K; Cashion, A; Feetham, S; Jenkins, J; Prows, C; Williams, J; Wung, SF, Nurses transforming health care using genetics and genomics. Nursing Outlook 2010 Jan; 58(1): 26–35.

September 2017

As I reflect on my first three weeks as president of the Institute, in some ways I feel like I have been here a long time, while I also still feel brand new. 

I have been warmly welcomed by students, faculty, staff, and people in the Charlestown community. I’ve had the opportunity to sit with groups of faculty to learn about their program, their profession, and their scholarship. I have met with administrators and staff who have shared their perspectives and allowed me to ask questions to help me better understand our school and its unique culture, and have introduced myself to students who have graciously stopped what they were doing to make me feel welcome. 

There is so much to learn about the work of the Institute and the communities we serve. I am interested in knowing what you feel are the Institute’s deep and enduring strengths on which we can build our future, and understanding where the gaps are in our programs so that we can work collectively to fill them. 

I also want to work with the entire IHP community to ensure we foster an inclusive environment with broad acceptance of differences where everyone feels respected and valued. We must encourage and facilitate open conversation and the free exchange of divergent ideas because understanding others’ viewpoints makes us stronger. It will only be through practicing inclusivity on campus that we will be prepared to deliver humanistic and equitable care to our patients. 

It is gratifying to learn about the important role the IHP plays in the Charlestown neighborhood such as at the Harvard-Kent Elementary School and the numerous organizations we will assist during Community IMPACT Day on September 15. I plan to meet soon with the leaders of these organizations, as well as colleagues at our fellow Partners HealthCare affiliates, to get a deeper understanding of our impact and reinforce our commitment to the populations we serve. 

I look forward to working with you on all aspects of our future, and I encourage you to share your ideas and thoughts, large or small.


Institute Input

President Paula Milone-Nuzzo welcomes ideas, feedback, and suggestions from members of the Institute community

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