Remembering Those Lost to Medical Harm at #TPSER9

Dave_Rosemary_Arlington_Cemetary

A Day 3 tradition during the Telluride Patient Safety Educational Roundtable & Student/Resident Summer Camps has been for students and faculty to join in a team building trek up the Bear Creek trail in the San Juan mountain range of Colorado. The hike has always played an important part in the week, allowing students and faculty to collectively reflect in a relaxed, awe-inspiring environment on the conversations and concepts around patient centered care, new to some and a career choice for all. This week, the Telluride experience moved east to Washington DC, and the Bear Creek hike transformed into a crosstown journey from the Georgetown University campus on foot and Metra to the Arlington National Cemetery. While the threat of bears and the physical challenges of altitude and mountain terrain were absent, the group was left to navigate east coast summer drizzle, a big-city subway system and an unfamiliar routine to overcome together.

As we made our way across Washington DC, organic conversations between students and faculty grew throughout the largest Telluride gathering in nine years. I was fortunate to get to know a number of students on the walk to and from this national landmark, many of those conversations each deserving a blog post all their own. Like Rose Ngishu for example–a nurse and mother of four from Kenya now in Galveston, TX, and in her third year of medical school. Rose shared how she knew at 7 years old, living in a country where any healthcare was a luxury, that she wanted to become a doctor and change the conditions in her country of origin. A woman, who despite many personal obligations, continues to push stubbornly toward her goal of improving the lives of those less fortunate and become a physician.

Saturday’s hike culminated on the hill beneath Robert E. Lee’s house with Dave Mayer and Rosemary Gibson centering the group around the fact that it would take less than two years to fill Arlington National Cemetery with the victims of medical harm. Less than two years to fill a cemetery that holds over 100 years worth of US Military casualties and their family members. Rosemary then encouraged us to break up into groups of 3-4 and remember by name, if possible, patients or family members that we personally knew affected by medical harm. The group then came back together and honored those we had discussed in our smaller groups. A new Telluride tradition began this week–one that connected the head with the heart, patient with provider.

Following are a few of the names remembered on Saturday. I can only hope that the efforts of our group, all the Telluride alumni, and healthcare stakeholders working in the best interest of patients, will result in the ability to recall fewer names in the future.

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One Comment on “Remembering Those Lost to Medical Harm at #TPSER9”

  1. Rose Ngishu says:

    Telluride East Round table has changed me. It has challenged and strengthened me. I was so honored to be in the company of many healthcare heroes/heroines. Selfless people with an urgent obligation to humanity – to mitigate, if not eradicate medical mistakes. One of the things that Rosemary Gibson elaborated on was the consequences of our decisions. She shared how the cemetery is so close to the Pentagon, and how the decisions made in the Pentagon affect the numbers of our soldiers we lay to rest. Similarly, the decisions we make in healthcare impact our patients, and drive how many patients we lay to rest. We have to be make sound decisions.

    We also remembered the “unknown,” just as there is the tomb of an unknown soldier. Indeed, if we will be honest, we are not able to fully account for all those we have hurt by medical mistakes.


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