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. moveforwardpt.com.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The "Core" of the Institute

Dictionary.com 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