Leadership and Love

Those of us in the patient safety field have had the great experience through the years of listening to Don Berwick’s keynote speeches and writings. Be it his Escape Fire talk at one of the IHI Annual Meetings, the speech he gave at his daughter’s medical school graduation, or his personal story published in JAMA, entitled, To Isaiah,–the stories he tells and the important messages he shares move and inspire all of us. As the power of storytelling to create change across industries continues to rise to the forefront, Don Berwick has been doing this naturally through the years. And his audience has grown over the years as well–perhaps as a result of his gifted ability to share the stories of his life and career in ways that move others, but also because his passion for improving healthcare sets a true north all can follow. Here is his Harvard medical school address from 2012, where he advises that in confusing times, it is even more important that a physician’s true north remains his/her oath to care for all patients:

I read a beautifully written piece on leadership and love this past week that was right up there with many of Dr. Berwick’s powerful messages, and felt it was important to share it with the health science students, resident physicians and medical educators following our ETY blog. For those of you that enjoy Paul Levy’s blog like I do, this past week we were treated to Peter Pronovost’s message to Parkland Hospital regarding the choice of their next CEO, in a post entitled, Pronovost advises all boards and CEOs. Having recently moved to the Baltimore/DC region in assuming my new role as Corporate Vice President for Quality and Safety at MedStar Health, I have had the great pleasure of spending some time with Peter (a fellow anesthesiologist), as both our integrated health systems make up a significant portion of patient care in the Mid-Atlantic region. His passion, commitment and accomplishments in the field of patient safety are unrivaled, as is clearly displayed in some of his comments I share below–truly Berwick-like and extremely powerful, inspiring words for all of us in healthcare:

Historian Rufus Fears [right] notes that great leaders — leaders who changed the world — have four attributes: a bedrock of values, a clear moral compass, a compelling vision and the ability to inspire others to make the vision happen. Parkland needs one of these great leaders.

The key values of the next CEO should be humility, courage and love — and these values must guide the leader’s behavior…The leader must be able to live with the paradox of being humble yet confident.

Yet perhaps the greatest value will be love. Avedis Donabedian, one of the fathers of quality improvement, was interviewed on his death-bed by a student. The student asked, “Now that you have been a patient and devoted your life to improving care, what is the secret of improving quality?” Donabedian told him, “The secret of quality is love. If you love your God, if you love yourself, if you love your patients, you can work backwards to change the system.”

The next CEO must recognize this and seek to understand rather than judge, to learn and improve rather than blame and shame.


One Comment on “Leadership and Love”

  1. Kate says:

    Hi David, I was just telling Sorrel yesterday about Peter’s message to Parkland. Very inspiring to read. Kate

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