My name is Victoria Rea and I am currently a 4th year Undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia; I will be graduating in May 2019, and have been involved with the IHI Open School UNBC Chapter for about one year. I grew up in a rural community in Northern BC, and as a result have been impacted by poor healthcare first hand. From having to travel hours to receive basic healthcare, not having a family doctor for the majority of my life, and experiencing long wait lists to make a simple appointment, to having to be air lifted to different hospitals down South due to medical complications; I have become passionate about healthcare improvement, especially when it comes to equity in the North. I was encouraged to apply for a scholarship from the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council and IHI BC Chapters of Quality Improvement that would allow me to attend the highly anticipated IHI National Forum in Orlando Florida, and was ecstatic to learn that I was the recipient!
Being an undergraduate student at the University of Northern British Columbia, attending this conference was the opportunity of a lifetime as I was surrounded by individuals that I look up to, and was able to have a voice for Northern BC. Being in my fourth and final year of my degree, I had spent much of my time throughout the last three years building and strengthening my medical school application. Among other lessons, this conference reignited my passion for healthcare improvement and leadership, in a time in my life that I needed it most.
At the National Forum, I attended many workshop sessions that taught me lessons that I can bring back to our IHI UNBC Chapter. On the first day of the conference, I attended the pre-conference keynote with Dr. Zubin Damania, also known as Z-Dogg MD online. There was not a dry eye in the audience as he spoke about burnout, his work in quality improvement, and how one of the largest determinants of health is where a patient was born and raised. After Dr. Damania’s eye opening keynote, I made my way to the presenter and student reception where I had appetizers, and was able to network and meet new people involved with quality improvement and IHI. The first day of the conference involved a keynote by Derek Feeley and Jason Leitch, and workshops called: How to Co Design an Environment where Staff Can Thrive, Activating Global Health Change Agents for Health Equity, Engaging Students as Catalysts in Improvement Work, and a second keynote called Women in Action Paving a Way for Better Care (you can check out the recording of the panel here: http://ow.ly/gMAT30n5DY5). Some major points at each of these workshops was learning how to close the “know do gap”, the value of a patient-centered value system in quality improvement work, the need to refocus existing resources already available instead of starting improvement interventions from scratch, and creating an environment that students can work so that they feel appreciated and motivated. Learning about how to create an environment that students can be involved in without feeling taken advantage of or under-appreciated was of great importance to me as our chapter grows. Personally, I have been in a negative working environment before, and I want the IHI UNBC Chapter to reflect a safe space where all involved are appreciated, respected, and motivated.
To conclude the first day of the conference, a moving keynote was conducted by Maureen Bisognano, Dr. Celine Gounder, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Vania Deonizio, where each person explained their experiences being a woman in medicine and quality improvement; again, many tears were shed hearing the inspirational stories from these women. Specifically, the “Dancin' Power” movement was explained by founder and executive director, Vania Deonizio; this is a quality improvement effort where Vania incorporated dancing into the everyday lives of those who might benefit from artistic expression in long term hospital care. I was so intrigued by the movement, as I was a competitive figure skater growing up, that I am currently in the process of researching to see if this could be viable in the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George. Ultimately, the first day of the IHI National Forum was a success!
The second day was started by a moving keynote by Gregory Boyle, where he talked about his improvement work through his company called “Homeboy Industries.” I have never been in the presence of an individual as wise, well spoken, and passionate as Gregory, as he told us his emotional stories about quality improvement by working with marginalized populations, as he helped reintegrate gang members and previously incarcerated individuals back into society through Homeboy Industries. After the keynote, I moved into a full day of workshops where I attended sessions that taught me how to leave the forum with a sticky message, activating leaders as agents for change, and preparing personally and professionally for end of life care conversations. These sessions were followed by a final keynote by Dr. Don Berwick. I signed up for the “activating leaders as agents for change” workshop as I was interested in learning about how to recruit leaders to act as change agents. I thought that this could be directly related to our chapter, specifically in regards to recruitment and chapter sustainability. Specifically, I learned how unleashing intrinsic motivation, and finding a way to do this in chapter members at an individual level is a way to ensure that motivation and action is maintained. Lastly, the keynote by Dr. Don Berwick was also a take away of the National Forum where he further talked about closing the health gap among marginalized populations as previously mentioned by Dr. Damania, and further expressed health issues in the United States regarding the issue of how where we grow up heavily determines our health outcomes for the rest of our lives.
In all, I learned valuable lessons from the keynote speakers and the multiple workshops that I attended. I was able to network and connect with like-minded individuals who offered to provide support when I need it in the future. Furthermore, I am taking many valuable lessons back to our chapter in regards to student recruitment, creating a positive environment that encourages QI Interest and motivation at an individual level, and ultimately creating an environment where we can thrive while creating changes in the health system. I left the IHI National Forum more inspired than I have ever been. I have been reminded that with proper support, we can make a change in the health system that needs improvement, and I am motivated to help make these changes happen. I would like to thank the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council and the IHI BC Chapters Quality Improvement for providing me with the outstanding opportunity to attend the IHI National Forum, as it was an experience that I will never forget. I would also like to thank the Institute for Healthcare Improvement for hosting such an incredible conference! Lastly, I would like to thank my peers in the IHI UNBC Chapter for informing me of the conference and scholarship opportunity, and for providing a platform that can truly help create change in the North!