Sunday, December 11, 2011

What Can I Do For You?

One of my graduate school professors suggested that during every interaction with a colleague or patient we should ask the question “what can I do for you today?” The idea behind this simple question is that it conveys genuine interest in the conversation and in the other person present during the exchange. My New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to ask that question in my interactions with faculty and students at the Institute. My expectation is that from some I will hear that all is going well. From others, I anticipate a list of concerns and problems. These comments are very helpful in operational problem solving that is vital to the Institute. With a clear statement of the concern, I often find that the issue has already been addressed and the “asker” doesn’t know it. Thus, a simple exchange of information can sometimes solve the issue. In other cases, more action or understanding is needed in order to solve the issue. This also needs to happen. These two categories of responses (all is going well or I/we have an issue with________________) are the “business as usual” exchange that assures meaningful day to day operation in an academic environment.

There are two additional responses to my question (what can I do for you?) about which I have strong positive anticipation. First, I look forward to hearing from every faculty member at the Institute about what we might do together to enhance their research, scholarship, service, or teaching. Similarly, from students, I would love to hear about ways that I/we can assure that their learning experience is helping move them toward a future of excellent participation in the discipline of knowledge driven service and leadership. We are all here together to assure that the Institute serves the community of learners and also the greater community, that faculty contribute to their discipline and to our students, and that together we advance the knowledge and practice of our professions. Coming to terms with operational problems or challenges that get in the way of these purposes is essential and is the goal of administration.

A second response about which I am hopeful is a response that focuses on our collective future. Perhaps a reframing of the question should be “what can we do together (or for each other) to assure that the Institute is at the cutting edge of education, service, research, and scholarship?” What can we do to be sure that we are walking into our future together as academic leaders, faculty, and students? I am convinced that these conversations about positive, future oriented change are the vital questions that should drive us. The recognition that we always have room to improve, that what worked last year can always be revisited, and that the health care of the future is likely to be a different world than the one in which learned and practiced can be intimidating (and humbling) perspectives. Courage to face these critical issues comes when we focus on what we can do better as individuals and what we can do (together) as a community. The need for change usually does not imply that something is wrong and we need to react or correct it. It means that when we have new information or new expertise or new environments that we need to change in order to be effective in the modified situation.

Over the next semester I will be inviting some conversation with groups of faculty members, with Schools and Departments, and with students. My first question will be “What can I do for you?” It will be followed by another question, “What can we do together?” I hope that you will take a moment over our holiday break to think about how you might respond.

Best wishes for a smooth conclusion to this semester and an exciting welcome to 2012!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Celebrating Nurse Practitioners (guest blog by Dean Laurie Lauzon Clabo)

Dean Laurie Lauzon Clabo (School of Nursing) has provided this contribution to the Provost Blog.  Thanks to Laurie for her thoughts on Nurse Practitioners during this celebratory week!

By Laurie Lauzon Clabo, Dean, School of Nursing

November 13th to 19th is National Nurse Practitioner Week. Nurse Practitioners, advanced practice registered nurses with Master’s level preparation, have been making significant contributions to the health of the nation since 1965, when the role was first introduced by the pioneering Dr. Loretta Ford at the University of Colorado. Since that time, NPs have been serving as pioneers, leading the way in clinical care for people in primary, community and acute care settings with a special emphasis on care for the most vulnerable and underserved. The recently released report on the Future of Nursing by the Institute of Medicine calls for an even more expanded role for the 150,000 Nurse Practitioners in the US, working to the full scope of the their preparation to collaborate fully with other health professionals in leading a redesigned health care system.
The Institute has been preparing nurse practitioners since 1985. In 2007, we also began to offer the highest practice degree in the profession, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Currently our program is recognized as being in the top 10% in the country - and with good reason.
Every day, our expert NP faculty members are making contributions in both practice and scholarship that serve to improve the health of our community and to guide the ongoing reform of the healthcare system, working in true interprofessional teams. From providing care and support to at-risk adolescents; to the diagnosis and management of common and chronic illness across the lifespan; to providing essential mental health services for children and adults; to caring for women and children; to making the health care system safer for older adults with delirium and guiding end-of-life care decisions; to leading healthcare systems across the nation and around the globe, our NP faculty are truly making a difference in the lives of those they serve. And while doing all of this, they are proudly preparing the next generation of their colleagues. From the day they enter our programs students are supported to find their passion in nursing and to determine where they will contribute their expertise to the care of our community. This week, join me in celebrating the many contributions of our NP’s, both present and future, who are leading in ways that make us all healthier!

Laurie Lauzon Clabo, PhD
Dean, School of Nursing
November 13, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Colleagues and Veterans

Today, November 11, is Veterans Day.   Celebrated in the United States since the 1950s, Veterans Day is  "a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of 
country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good."  These are the words of President Eisenhower who proclaimed the original declaration for Veterans Day.

We are fortunate to have as colleagues several individuals who have served our country as members of the military.  Five of our current faculty members and several current students are veterans.  Additionally, at least two of our current students are active service members.  Today, November 11, those visiting our building will find attractive posters and flags in each of the lobby areas.  President Bellack has asked that these displays be placed in honor of all  veterans and military personnel, particularly those from the Institute community.

I want to express gratitude to those members of our community who are veterans and to those who are actively serving in the military.  Through their dedication and talent, they have contributed to our country in a highly visible and substantive way.  Through their combined dedication to the service of our country, they have set a wonderful example-one of service and caring- that is of great value and represents a model of sacrifice for which I am personally grateful

Please join me in expressing your appreciation to our colleagues who have extended their leadership and talent by serving our country.    Their combined years of service cross several generations, several locations around the world, and several of the wars in which our country has been involved.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Joan Blue, A Great Teacher

If you attended last night's scholarship gala in the beautiful atrium of the new wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, you know the meaning of the word beautiful.  The setting was spectacular. Colorful decorations. Wonderful friends of the Institute gathered to support us.  The Degas exhibit.  Great words from people who care deeply about what we do every day.  Smart, remarkable students being recognized.  A thought provoking video that will go viral in the next 24 hours.  Faculty and staff everywhere (and all looking handsome and beautiful).  It was remarkable.   What a celebration of the Institute community and our story!   There are so many great stories and images from this year's annual scholarship gala to make it memorable.

One moment that I will always remember was the riveting performance by our own Joan Blue.  Joan, an accomplished vocalist and longtime staff member in our School of Nursing, has lent her talents to the gala for the past three years.  She has performed with grace and inspiration and made each year's gala more memorable.   I looked with anticipation to Joan's performance for this year's gala.   Where would she be placed? What would the song be?  Everyone who has been to previous scholarship galas probably knows what I mean.  Joan is good and it is such a treat to hear her use her talent to the Institute's benefit.  She is amazing.

President Bellack introduced Joan.  She was beautifully positioned  on a landing framed by glass above the audience.  The music, a sound track, started.  Joan began to sing.   After the first few lines of the song, her words started to fade a bit.  Joan held her hand up signaling to the person controlling the sound system to stop.  "There's an echo up here"she said, "let's start again."  Tense waiting.  The music started again.   Joan started to sing.  Again, she waved her hand gently, signaling another pause.  Immediately my mind went to feelings of concern for Joan, wondering how she would end this gracefully.  Actually, I am sure that I was thinking "what would I do in this situation?"  "How would I deal with this?"   No worry.  Joan sweetly and with that remarkable smile invited us to join her in singing a capella.  She started the song, sang the song without any background music, and the audience was treated to Joan's remarkable talent in its most pure form.   She never missed a note, filling the room with a beautiful sound  She maintained her grace and beauty.   She made the moment work.  Four hundred Institute guests were treated and inspired at the same time.   Joan's performance was beautiful.

In reflecting a bit on this occurrence, I am reminded that we all have the chance to be teachers.   Joan's lesson for us was about using our talents to achieve their intended purpose regardless of what little obstacles might come our way.   I'm going to keep thinking about that lesson as I move through the semester.   I invite you to join me in thanking Joan for being such a good teacher for all of us.   And the next time you are distracted by the "echo" I hope that you just keep on moving toward your intended purpose.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

PT Moves Us Forward

This is national Physical Therapy Month.  It's a good time to think a bit about the important leadership and service role provided by this important discipline.  Physical therapists have been at the heart of rehabilitation for at least the last century.   Interestingly the first modern school of PT was established at Walter Reed Army Hospital following World War I.    There are now over 200 Physical Therapy Schools in the USA and many more around the world.   The profession of physical therapy has advanced their own educational standards from a certificate to bachelor's degree entry to master's entry and most recently to a professional doctoral degree.

At the Institute, Physical Therapy has been a leader since the beginning!   The first degrees offered by the Institute thirty years ago were in Physical Therapy.  Nancy Watts, one of our founders, assured that the important link between Mass General and the Institute were firmly in place.   She was also committed to assuring that the Institute's PT programs were unique, distinctive, and of high quality.  
The founders of the Institute wisely placed PT, along with Nursing and Speech-Language Pathology, as the key professional programs to be offered.   Since that time our own PT program has grown to include over 200 students in entry level and master's programs.   The program is ranked as 7th in the country by US News and World Report.  Over 500 students apply to the PT programs each year, making them very competitive.  The result is that the Institute is blessed with a remarkably bright and passionate group of entry level and master's students every year.  

There are lots of things that I have learned about our PT program.  Let me share a few (that you may already know).   First, our curriculum is quite unique.   The program has been designed to integrate clinical laboratory experiences into the didactic portion of key courses.  This is a unique differentiator for our programs.   Last year, we opened the new Center for Health Promotion, an onsite PT Center for student training.  This is wonderful gift to the community as well as providing a valuable site for our students. Many of our own faculty members have served in key roles in the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).   Currently, Dean Lesley Portney leads the Education Section of the organization providing important direction for the future of the education programs in PT.   Dr. Aimee Klein has served for several years as a member of the APTA national Board of Directors.   It is wonderful that the Institute's talent is able to influence direction and national strategy for the association.  

Our PT students are spectacular.  They raise money for great causes including their well established annual kickball (or dodge ball?) tournament.  In addition to their extensive practicum and internship requirements, our PT students all complete a community health course that includes a service project for health promotion.   The outcomes of these projects are impressive and address issues of nutrition, obesity, exercise in the homeless (DJ is a leader in this area!), and so forth.   A new initiative involves our Physical Therapy students in innovative projects with other students from Seton Hall University and two Scandinavian schools.   Two students just returned from Finland and more will participate next year.

So, congratulations to our PT colleagues and students!  We honor your participation and leadership and look forward to the next exciting phase of your  life at the IHP!  
PS:  To learn more about National PT month, check out www.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The "Core" of the Institute provides 19 (yes nineteen) definitions of the word "core."  One of them is particularly relevant to the Institute:   Definition no. 2 (noun) is "the innermost, essential, or central part of anything.  Our core values were developed during last year's strategic planning process as statements about our essential and central character as a community.  I try to use these values as a roadmap for myself and for the Institute.  I find them to be particularly useful during times of conflict or confusion.  The core values are fairly lofty and are somewhat non specific.  They provide general direction, but allow for plenty of  interpretation.  They don't tell us "how" we should get things done or "how" we should make things work well.  They provide essential guidance on matters of importance and when things go wrong, they provide important points for reflection and change.   I would advise that in our interactions with students, the community, and with each other we talk about and think about our core values.  The listing of our core values is as follows:
  • The highest standards of professional, academic, and scientific excellence, ethical conduct, integrity, and personal responsibility
  • An inclusive and equitable environment that is respectful of diversity in its broadest meaning
  • Mutual trust and collegiality in our relationships with each other and those we serve in health care and the community
  • Productive partnerships among faculty, staff, and students that support learning and work and that allow for interprofessional and global collaboration
  • A connected and engaged learning community where students fulfill a passion for lifelong learning, and become graduates of choice for employers
  • An environment that embraces and rewards inquiry, ingenuity, innovation, resourcefulness, and continuous learning
  • A rewarding work environment to ensure we are an “employer of choice”
  • Accountability for our work and for prudent, efficient stewardship of our resources

Monday, May 30, 2011

"Links" to Memorial Day for the Institute

I have been struggling with how to put this next blog together.  How does one "link" Better Speech and Hearing Month, Nursing Week, and the memories of important friends and alumni of the Institute?   My mind has been flooded with some memories that fit a Memorial Day theme, that pay tribute to lost friends, and that tie nicely with the theme of honoring two of our disciplines that are "memorialized" in May!   So in this blog I have chosen to focus on the memory of Dr. James Mongan, former CEO of Partners Health and MGH, and also an honorary "friend" of the Institute; on the recent loss of one of our Founders, Dr. Nancy Watts,  a visionary in the world of Physical Therapy.   In April, a Boston Marathon run honored one of our recent alums, Christopher Norman (CSD '07) who passed away suddenly last fall.  We also remember another CSD alum,  Carrie Penchuk, (CSD '06) who succumbed to a long bout with cancer last month.

I decided to spend this morning, Memorial Day 2011, facing the challenge of making the link and attempting to memorialize this jumbled mix of sadness, honor, and tribute.  

Link Number 1:  Dr. Nancy Watts and Dr. James Mongan.  Two health care rock stars, who were probably never linked in day to day life, but whose attention and talent started the Institute and then sustained it through its best and most challenging times.  Dr. Watts, known as a great teacher of physical therapists and a leader at Mass General was committed to the founding of an educational organization that was different, in that it placed the education of health professionals-nurses, PTs, SLPs, and others front and center.  Imagine the challenge, thirty four years ago, of being a proponent of a "stand alone" school of health professions, that valued and taught in an interdisciplinary manner, and educated new professionals for entry at the graduate level.  This approach, seen previously only in schools of medicine and dentistry, created a bridge and blueprint for who we are today.  Fast Forward to Dr. Jim Mongan's arrival in Boston in 1996, when he was invited to serve as President of Mass General Hospital, our founding organization.   As the story goes, the Institute was struggling financially and organizationally at that time.  There was some discussion of closure or of "handing off" the Institute to another institution, which would have inevitably led to a loss of uniqueness and vitality, even if financial stability would have been accomplished.   Dr. Mongan  offered support and leadership and shared his belief in the role of the Institute as a unique leader for health professions education.  With change in leadership, programming, and support, the Institute has grown into its future.   We share grateful memories of these two important leaders, Drs. Watts and Mongan, who brought life and sustenance to our school and whose vision will continue to live in what we do!

Link Number 2:  Chris Norman.   Chris is remembered by his classmates and the faculty as a person who led by example, collegiality, and friendship.   He was talented, being one of the handful of graduates who enters PhD study each year.  Chris left the Institute for the University of Nebraska, where he was working on his doctorate with a focus on research and treatment in fluency disorders (Stuttering).  The meaning of Chris' life and vitality were brought home to me when I attended a special breakfast held by the Institute the day before the Boston Marathon.  The breakfast was attended by Chris' family, classmates, and faculty in CSD.  The purpose was to pay tribute to Chris and to honor Janis Greims (CSD 2007) Chris' classmate, who was running the marathon in his honor.   The words of thankfulness, appreciation, celebration, and joy for Chris' life, his contributions to Speech Pathology and to the CSD program, and of course for Janis' leadership in creating a scholarship were "bigger than life" that day!

Link Number 3: Carrie Penchuk (CSD 2006).   Carrie passed away on April 14, 2011.  I never knew Carrie, not personally that is.   I have spent a few hours learning about Carrie and her remarkable husband, Matt.   Matt kept a blog describing the journey through Carrie's battle with cancer and his revealing "insider" look at the experience of her death, his loss, and their process together.  Dr. Gregg Lof, CSD Chair described Carrie as having "smiles, charm, and smarts."   This account of Carrie's last months speaks to that.  It also suggests that Carrie married someone who was matched with those same qualities and a great writer too.   Matt's blog doesn't say much about Carrie's speech pathology career, but his work should be required reading for every speech-language pathologist, physician, nurse, and physical therapist - every health care provider.   Matt's blog, written with joy, sadness, and technical precision, is filled with memorable and riveting anecdotes of Carrie's care.  Everyone who reads this narrative will find the lessons that we try to teach every day:  (1) the value of good health care; (2) the tragedy and desperation caused by insensitivity and miscommunication; (3) the heroic value of advocacy for those we love during difficult health situations; and (4) critical end of life lessons.   I found a strange connection not only to what we teach, but to what we do.   First and foremost, Matt repeatedly speaks to the brilliant, caring, and practical solutions brought forward by nurse heroes.  Matt relays the breadth of their expertise in teaching him how to monitor Carrie's blood count, and how to advocate with other providers. He relays also the story of the physical therapist, who on a sad day at Christmas time "ordered" that Carrie be taken to the lobby of the hospital to see Christmas trees and stop by the gift shop for some shopping!   And of course, the star of this story is a speech-language pathologist, who demonstrated the grace, charm, smile, and smarts that her faculty here at the Institute loved.   I commend this blog as homework for everyone who cares about health care, end of life issues, and wants to be educated about the "patient/family" perspective.    Set a side a few hours, read this from the beginning, and you will be changed.  (Special thanks to Matt Penchuk for giving me permission to share his blog).

In closing, I hope that you join me in seeing the "links" around which we cluster.  While there are links to additional resources on the internet, our links are deeper.  The stories, all memorable, are inspiring and educational.   For me, this Memorial Day, is highlighted by remembrances of members of the Institute community who have taught by example,  provided lessons that are transforming, and who live on through their stories of generosity, talent, and courage, and who help us know why there is a "Better Speech and Hearing Month" and a "National Nurses Week."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Alum and Students Make Four Home Runs at the Boston Marathon

Our students (and alums) are beyond fantastic.  We all know that.  They are highly recruited, so smart, and destined to be leaders.   Today, I want to take a moment and to recognize a few members of our community, who have demonstrated exemplary leadership through their participation in this year's Boston Marathon.  I admire their effort so much and believe they have hit a "home run" for themselves and for the Institute.  See what you think:

Home Run Number 1: First off, CSD 2007 alum, Janis Greim decided to combine her passion for running and her commitment to the IHP into a remarkable memorial for her classmate, Chris Norman, (CSD 2007), who passed away suddenly last year.   Janis, who now lives in Pennsylvania, and works as a speech-language pathologist for a rehabilitation agency, entered the Boston Marathon with a goal of raising funds in memory of Chris.  When the Norman family heard of this, they developed a matching challenge to inspire Janis' classmates, faculty, and others to make a donation.  At the end of the 26 mile run, Janis' leadership inspired over $15,000 of commitment for future students in CSD!   Janis, now back at home, sent a wonderful message yesterday, and in it she said :    ..." But running is really the pinnacle of the sport, it decides who wins and tests you when you’re at your most vulnerable point in the race.  More than that though, by itself, running is such an innately natural part of who we are as humans. And it occurred to me, Chris taught me that. He taught me about running. It has become such a powerful medium for expression. People run out of anger, fear, pain, boredom, joy, excitement, worry, love. . . Running is colorful, just like Chris. That’s why I think he was drawn to it. So at the end of the day, I think I’m lucky for having gone through all of this. I got to learn something about Chris and something about myself.  
I had no idea what would happen on Monday. I went into the race reminding myself that in all my 28 years, I’d never started a race that I didn’t finish - this would not be the first. I ran slow and steady and did it with a killer smile, because that’s what I remember most about Chris."   
Here is a link to Janis' marathon site.  It will inspire:
Home Run Number 2:  Kailin Collins, a second year student in the DPT program decided that with school and clinical responsibilities that she could run in the marathon and raise money for the PT Center!   The faculty describe Kailin as a leader and clearly she is a great time manager, as well.  Training for the marathon, combined with her other responsibilities is an amazing commitment.   And the best  news, Kailin came in 36th in the women's division with 2:48:39 time, which is just 2 minutes shy of an Olympic trial qualifying time!   She says that ....
"the treck from Hopkinton to Boston was an indescribable journey for me and there so many faculty, family, and classmates cheering along the way!"   She went on..." 
"Throughout the race I was cognizant that I was representing the IHP...... I have had the privilege of working (in PT) with clients from the Aphasia Center and I was amazed by their fortitude and will."    
Kailin's fortitude and will raised over $5000 for the PT Center at the Institute.  PT Student Kailin Collins at the finish line!
Home Run Number 3:  Kelly Brush is a first year student in the Direct Entry (MSN) Nursing program.  Kelly brought distinction to herself and to the Institute by completing the course in under two hours......oh by the way...she came in first place (YES, FIRST PLACE) in the handcycle division of the marathon.   If you want to learn more about Kelly and her commitment to athletics and to other people with spinal cord injury, you may want to spend some time on her website: . .  Trust me, it is worth the time to learn of the drive and inspiration that Kelly brings to the Institute and to her racing!    Kelly described her participation in this year's Boston marathon as follows:  "The marathon was great, a lot of fun. I went much faster than I was expecting, which was exciting. It was such a great experience being on the course with all of the fans and hearing everyone cheering for me. I did my first marathon last spring in Burlington, Vermont (where I'm from) and qualified for Boston. I decided that since I'm living here and I qualified and it's such a great event I should do it. It was hard to train since it's winter in Boston and I can't ride my handcycle (what I used in the marathon) in the snow, but I obviously found a way to train enough to win my division! I was not expecting to win, but it was a pleasant surprise!
Home Run Number 4:  And then there is our DNP student, Ann Marie Larocca.  Ann Marie is one of the nurse leaders at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, for which she raised money during this year's marathon.  So, imagine  juggling a demanding "more than"  full time job at Spaulding, participation in a doctoral program after hours and on weekends and training for a marathon.   You can check out Ann Marie at the finish line on CBS Boston:

 She describes her experience, as follows: 

"I started off feeling strong, but at about mile 14 I hit a bad patch mentally and started to doubt my ability to finish. I was actually looking around for the next Red Cross station and thinking no shame, no blame, just take the bus back to the Mandarin. Then something just kicked in. There were no angelic voices, no super burst of speed, I just started thinking about the Spaulding tagline "find your strength" . Focusing on finding my strength helped me turn it around, kept me off the bus and after 6 plus hours on the course led me to the finish line. "
So, four home runs from the IHP community!  I encourage you to send each of our marathoners your congratulations!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Grateful for Our Educational Resources" Week

April 10-16 is National Library Week.   I was on the "T" and saw a John Grisham (one of my favorite authors) poster promoting this recognition of libraries and librarians! Grisham caught my attention, and now I hope that I catch yours!

So, first off,   I think it's a good idea for me to express my thanks, at this time, to our librarian, Jessica Bell and to others who create a remarkable learning foundation for the Institute.   Jessica's leadership is supported by her remarkable colleagues at the Treadwell Libray at MGH, led by Elizabeth Schneider.  Together, all of these colleagues make an innumerable list of resources available to us, customize resources for our students, and serve as real "knowledge managers" for faculty on the front lines!  Many colleges and unviersities are struggling with the library model for the future, the decreasing relevance of "physical" libraries, the cost and need for connecting with library networks, and with redefining the librarian as a learning expert rather than an archivist.   With the wisdom of those who have been involved in Institute planning, with the cooperation of our MGH partners, and with the talent of Jessica as our liaison and "knowledge manager" we have acheived so much, without struggling with the issues mentioned above!   Our library (and our library team) are far ahead of the times and we are most fortunate to have such talent.

But, we also need to recognize the others who support our faculty and students in the teaching and learning enterprise.  Thanks to Denis Stratford and the IT staff,  we have state of the art classrooms that are loaded with technology that we need.  We have a learning platform that is supported 24/7 for our students and faculty, we have digital video capability in our clinical spaces that enhances instruction, makes observation feasible in ways unimagined ten years ago, and brings the clinic and the classroom closer and closer.   And we also have consistent attention to our technology, data, and web based needs!

And last, but not least, we are grateful for our Instructional Designer, Diane Ottovianni.  Diane is keeping busy supporting some of our online faculty,  conducting consultations and workshops for all of us, and looking to future needs.   Many of you have already experienced Diane's expertise in pedagogy and in technology improvements for courses.

So,  I hereby declare "library week" as "Grateful for Educational Resources Week."   We are so fortunate to have an energetic, passionate, and commited team of resource personnel in place to help make the IHP such a great place to teach and to learn.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Amazing Students with Amazing Stories

Meet some friends of mine--who are some of the current roster of John Hilton Knowles Scholars.  Left to right above, they are Jason Villarreal (DEN), Tammy Cheung (DPT), Katie Volpa (ABSN), Taryn  Townsend(CSD) and Ricardo Sedan (DEN) .  The Knowles family has established a scholarship in honor of John Hilton Knowles, who was President of Mass General Hospital when the Institute was founded. Dr. Knowles, now deceased, and his family recognized the important contribution that our students are to make, as future leaders of their various disciplines

Jason, whose home is in San Antonio, Texas has worked as a furniture mover for people who were impoverished and for three years as a health promoter in inner city Boston. Fluent in Russian (along with Spanish and English), Jason has volunteered with the Chernobyl Children's Project!  He is also involved in two choirs in his church and is active in flag football!   He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

Tammy, who is originally from New Jersey is first year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.  Before coming to Boston, Tammy volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and also for "Open Hands" a group that brings food to homebound, ill, or disabled persons.  Tammy is a graduate of the University of California at Berkley.

Katie,  a graduate of Boston University with a master's in international health, is enrolled in the accelerated BSN program at the Institute.   She has spent one year in Chennai India where she focused on serving people with HIV/AIDS and another year working on the Thai-Burmese border, working in refugee camps.  Her international work convinced her that she wanted to combine her knowledge of international need with clinical skills in nursing.

Taryn,  a graduate of the University of Florida, has remained active with an organization that has significant outreach to multicultural populations and inclusiveness.  Taryn is a first year student in the MS program in Speech  Language Pathology.  In addition to her studies (and adjusting to Boston weather), Taryn is a volunteer with the Big Sisters organization.

 Ricardo, is in the first year of the three year DEN program.  His rich background includes participating as a professional card player during his undergraduate years at MIT, working as a medical interpreter at the Charlestown Community Health Center, producing films,  and being dad to two young sons (ages 3 and 5). 

The Knowles family has established a scholarship in honor of John Hilton Knowles, who was President of Mass General Hospital when the Institute was founded.   Dr. Knowles, now deceased, and his family recognized the important contribution that our students are to make, as future leaders of their various disciplines.

At the March 3 meeting of our Trustees, which was also attended by representatives of the Knowles family, these great students were able to share their backgrounds and stories.  As you can imagine, they were a "hit."   It was my great pleasure to be able to introduce them to the Board, and I described them as game changers.  They are going to change the health care game of the future.  I am so happy to know that indivduals such as Jason Villarreal (DEN), Tammy Cheung (DPT), Katie Volpa (ABSN), Taryn  Townsend(CSD) and Ricardo Sedan (DEN) are at the Institute.  These scholars have already demonstrated their academic talent, as a basis for coming to the IHP and receiving this award.  Now, they are on the way to demonstrate talent in their discipline and as the next generation of leaders in health care.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords: The Lost Story

Just over a month ago, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head during a mass shooting in her home city of Tucson.   In this incomprehensible event, numerous others were killed or injured.   The nation’s hearts have been wracked with grief for this terrible tragedy.  As is always true with such events, the news media pounced on the story.     The public (myself included) looked forward to learning of what happened as the story progressed.  We all wanted to know that Giffords had survived.

For several weeks following Gifford’s tragic shooting, the media was filled with images of heroic “scrub clad” surgeons describing the specific details of the brain surgery, and her immediate post-operative recovery.   Descriptions of her early cognitive and motor responses (eye contact, hand squeezing) and removal of her ventilator filled newspapers and TV shows.  Discussions of her inability to communicate (attributed inappropriately to her tracheostomy) were presented repeatedly.  

Once her condition was stable, Congresswoman Giffords was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in Houston, Texas.   Her husband, Mark Kelly, explained to the media and the world that now that she was moving into rehabilitation, he hoped that their privacy would be respected and that they would not give regular news briefings.  This decision, after such an exhaustive course of events, is completely understandable.  We respect this decision, of course.   Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of a very long story about which the media rarely focuses.

Most of us at the Institute—nurses, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists---all know that the story hardly ended upon discharge from the University of Arizona Hospital.   That was the preface to what is guaranteed to be a long docudrama.     My wish is that the heroes and heroines of the next several chapters of the story had the chance to share their contribution—just like that skilled surgeon.   What would the story sound like?   What would be the plot?

Anyone reading the story would know that the coordination, skill, inter-professional competence, 24 /7 basic and advanced care in a highly integrated set of daily events would be the setting.  The characters involved in this narrative would be graduate level professionals—like those that we educate---who would monitor the congresswoman’s physical and cognitive status on a moment-to-moment basis.  They would develop specific strategies, based on research evidence, to guide her in the direction of recovery.  Those steps in care would involve pharmacologic, behavioral, physiological, and psychological interventions.     Complexities of motor function, cognition, language, speech, swallowing, social and executive functions would be assessed daily, weekly, and monthly using sophisticated measures, technologies, and expert observational skills.   The mental health needs of this important patient and her family would need to be addressed and advanced methods of counseling and support will be used to deal with the emotional complexities of brain recovery and establishing positive skills in coping.    

And the dramatic outcome of the story that started with a bullet will include a whole person, restored as fully as possible to someone who solves problems, socializes with friends, enjoys others, independently carries out needed activities and in that most hoped for outcome, returns to work again. 

I wish that when the media tells their version of the story that they would name the “other” heroes who contribute to this long drama.   The nurses, physical and occupational therapists, the speech-language pathologists and psychologists could all have a dramatic message that would really complete Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s lost story.     

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Martin Luther King Speaks to MGH Institute Community

Wouldn’t this have been a great headline on the Institute website?  At about the same time that MLK was assassinated, the Institute was in its earliest formative years.  Wouldn’t it have been something if Dr. King had been able to have given the first commencement address or speak at the Schwartz rounds?   His message, I am sure, would have been one that focused on urgency for bringing access to all, eliminating disparities and barriers to health care, and assuring that the needs of all people and all providers were addressed.  

Earlier today I heard a talk regarding Dr. King’s message.  The speaker, Dr. Anne Bonnyman, an Episcopal Priest at Trinity Church Boston, referred to a letter that King wrote while imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.   A portion of that letter reads:

“ I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta, and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. “ 
(Source:  King, ML (1964), Why We Can’t Wait. Penguin Group:  New York, NY.)

This quote really could be directed to our faculty and students at the Institute.   To me, it serves as a reminder that we are preparing health providers and leaders for the whole world.   Our students have had the great opportunity to study with and learn from excellent preceptors and mentors in some of Boston’s (and the nation’s) greatest institutions.   This privilege is afforded, I believe, not so that they can all continue their professional roles in this remarkable environment.   In fact, I believe a true measure of our institutional success lies in our graduates’ ability to take what they have learned here, and then to apply these learnings wherever they are most needed.

Are we encouraging our students to use their cutting edge professional education to serve the world?  Are we providing regular, visible, and substantive opportunities for our students to bring their newly formed skills to those places in our city, nation, and the world that are most likely to be transformed by our care?   In each of our programs and disciplines, are we consistently highlighting issues of equal access, disparity, health literacy, and prevention?  Are we assuring that our students leave us with the ability to respectfully and competently apply their skills and knowledge throughout every neighborhood in Boston, and in Haiti, in New Orleans, and other areas where excellent healthcare is not easily found? 

Our new strategic map will provide opportunity and direction for us, regarding those issues that Dr. King raised over 50 years ago. During 2011 (and beyond)  I hope that each and every faculty member and student within the Institute will:
  •  spend time talking about their opportunity to transform health care for everyone,
  • discuss issues of health care in the context of justice, and
  • always remember that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”   

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The King's Speech (Pathologist)

Happy 2011!   I hope that each and every member of the IHP community had a wonderful break, a good rest, and joins me in looking forward to a lively semester!   Part of my break time was filled with seeing a few films.   One that was memorable for me was "The King's Speech".

This film is receiving great reviews for the acting performance, the strong writing, and its historical significance.  I liked it for all of those reasons.  However, my reason for discussing "The King's Speech" in this blog is because of some important take home messages offered. 

First of all, let me reveal my bias.  I am a speech-language pathologist and spent many (wonderful) years working with people who stutter, helping young parents cope with their children's stuttering, dealing with prevention of bullying and teasing for PWS I(people who stutter), and  teaching masters and PhD students  in the area of fluency disorders.  It is safe to say that I care deeply about people who stutter and the challenges and compromised quality of life that many of them have experienced.   Given my "bias" and personal interest, it is no surprise that I had great interest in seeing this film.  I expect that many of my SLP colleagues around the world share this enthusiasm.

My great endorsement of this film, though, centers not so much on the interesting and unorthodox representation of speech therapy (by a passionate, devoted, quirky, charming, untrained) speech "therapist".  Rather, the great story of this film is it's portrayal of the stuttering experience by King George, the persistent and postive self motivation for healthy communication, and his accomplishment in coping with his fluency disorder in such a heroic manner.   I believe that the courage and devotion of King George is representative of many, probably most, of the PWS with whom I have been involved.   This part of the story rang true for me.

So, why write about it here?   This movie is so unique in its accurate representation of the stuttering experience.  I have, over the years collected episodes of television shows, cartoons (Porky Pig?), popular movies (, and some novels that have included persons who stutter as characters.  People who stutter are most often portrayed in these media as cognitively challenged, mentally unhealthy, shy, dangerous, or as the object of ridicule.   How difficult a road this has been for people who stutter.   I always think of that young child, sitting in the movie theater, when the Porky Pig character sputters out "Th-th-th-at's All FFFFFFolks".  How difficult, embarassing, and horrific it must be to have everyone in the room laughing at a caricature of your speech!  Many people who stutter have written about and spoken about this unfair and cruel portrayal as both hurtful and as adding to the burden of their communication problem.

 While this movie portrays the challenge and effort associated with stuttering realistically, it offers hope to people who stutter, portrays the work being done between the clinician and the patient in meaningful and effective ways, and demonstrates the positive result that can be acheived.   Given that 1 in 100 persons stutters, it is likely that all health care providers (not just SLPs) will deal with people who stutter over the course of their career.   My hope is that films such as "The King's Speech" will begin to challenge stereotypic and damaging views of stuttering for all of us!

Thanks for letting me share this "very biased' blog!  "That's All Folks."