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.
Visit to China Could Reap Dividends
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Recognize and increase student voices on DEI issues. Chair: Jack Gormley
- Increase the number of faculty from diverse backgrounds. Chair: Peter Cahn
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.