It began with a vision. Dr. Riccardo Valdez, Director of Clinical Pathology, was interested in moving the Clinical Flow Cytometry lab from University Hospital (UH) to the HLA laboratory at the North Campus Research Complex. The shift would allow for putting similar technologies, like HLA flow and crossmatch and hemepath flow, together. It would also move the laboratory to where cases are signed out and to where marrow aspirates are stained, differentiated, and signed out.
The move was first proposed in the fall of 2018 and deemed possible. Then, the hematopathology team, led by Usha Kota and Julie Bensinger; the HLA team, led by Abdulkadir Abdulle; Clinical Pathology Operations Director, Kristina Martin; and the Pathology Relocation and Renovation (PRR) team went to work in planning for and implementing the move.
Multiple lean process flow sessions were held to evaluate the best layout for both the HLA teams and Flow team with all groups making changes, developing compromises, and working together for the best overall solution. “Once the layout was set, numerous facilities teams needed to work together to make the change happen. This even involved one week where significant electrical and mechanical work was done in parallel to the on-going HLA lab work,” says Christine Baker, PRR Project Manager.
The teams also worked with PRR to identify storage solutions. To fit Flow Cytometry into space formerly occupied by only HLA, both teams needed to develop more lean approaches to storage and supply management.
As part of the move, the Flow Cytometry lab worked with the Blood Bank to hand off STAT stem cell testing that could not be moved to NCRC. “The Cell Therapy team within the Blood Bank had to take on a new testing paradigm for them,” explains Baker. This involved instrumentation that was new to them and new testing protocols to learn. The team did this while short-staffed and managing their own workload. The Flow Cytometry lab validated instruments and trained the Blood Bank staff on testing, trained personnel from marrows and HLA to work in hemepath flow, and trained personnel from HLA to assist with marrows receiving and staining slides. Flow Cytometry senior staff worked with vendors to assist with instrument moves, installation, and inspection, and performed validations in HLA and Flow with the data approved by section directors.
The result? A phased move that began in April, brought specimens to NCRC beginning May 14, and was completed in late May. The teams are still working with PRR on the transport of cases to sign out, both from University Hospital to NCRC and within the NCRC complex itself, but the bright, open space in the new combined HLA and Flow Cytometry lab is better-configured for the workflow than UH where the team worked in segmented, smaller spaces. Meetings with the Flow Cytometry director are now easier, as everyone is now in one building. This is improving work life for faculty who now have better access to the laboratory and for staff, who have access to better schedules and to better parking options.
An additional benefit is that when the technologist for marrows is unavailable due to a vacation or sick day, Flow Cytometry personnel are now trained to cover. The team is continuing to work on cross-training in both HLA and Flow to improve turn-around times and even out the workload, and working to reduce redundant work in order to address increased workload without adding full-time employees. This project is another exciting example of lean design and the ways the new space at NCRC is having a positive impact on faculty, staff, and patients alike.
Today brings another edition of DOP Updates, an email sent to members of our Department of Pathology team and interested stakeholders intended to share information of common interest. As per usual today’s edition is also [linked] in PDF form to preserve formatting across your mobile platforms. Send me a note if you have comments, concerns or stories to share with me or in the next edition of Updates.
In the last August 2018 edition of Updates, I talked about NCRC, what was working, what improvement opportunities remained, and some specific strategies to bridge the gaps that separated us from where we wanted to be. Today, with the support of our department and the institution we have made substantial progress while recognizing that much work remains to be done.
Those doing the work are the frontline of our quality program, a program in which we do the work in a standard way that we created, remain alert to things going wrong, fix it when it does, and find and fix the root cause(s) so that it is less likely to happen again. In our case staff, trainees and faculty have been at the frontlines, helping us recover and stabilize from a move that included well-designed solutions working exactly as intended and other well-intended plans that served only to show us what we could not have otherwise known. Focusing on our problems as learning opportunities we are responding with collaborative countermeasures that, in the spirit of Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA), will serve as the next round of experiments from which we will learn more about our work in a new place with a new set of realities, opportunities, and challenges.
While those at the front lines are making adjustments in collaboration with managers and laboratory directors to improve the quality of our work, we have launched a large cross-functional project team working on the value stream from arrival at N-LNC to archiving or return of materials with the goal of more efficient, timely and safe receipt, transportation, delivery and archiving of patient assets relevant to the daily care of those who look to us for answers, care and compassion. At the moment we have become the rate limiting step to care in several of our practices which is a place in which we have never been before, and we are passionately committed to close the gap between where we stand today and where we need to be to remain the place that others imagine when it comes to excellence in delivery of laboratory services.
In other areas, there are experiments underway to understand the link between our new and soon-to-be remodeled spaces and our capacity for collaboration and creativity. One experiment includes a daily huddle held every Thursday morning at 8:30 AM in “central park” in building 36 at NCRC focusing on learning from one another and being more intentional about using the space as a tool to make us better than what we could have otherwise been. Last week we touched on gratitude and the things that matter most as a conversation in response to concerns expressed about the risk of burnout for our staff, our trainees and our faculty. While we tend to focus on workload (“overburden”) when we speak of burnout there are multiple important drivers that include,
Feeling and expressing gratitude with one another as a daily practice while focusing on the things that matter most may address, at least in part, some of our needs when it comes to community, social support, and an understanding of values that are either aligned or for which there are gaps that might benefit from our attention. In our conversation about the things that matter most to those who were gathered in that space we heard about always putting patients and families first which may sometimes mean going above and beyond (“going the extra mile”) our usual expectations. We talked about the importance of being recognized for one’s work and doing what needs doing because it matters. That was linked to the importance of feeling valued and supported, having opportunities to grow both personally and professionally, having opportunities to meaningfully participate in cutting-edge health care, transparency in all things including the decision making processes that affect our daily work lives and being resourced appropriately to position all of us for success. We concluded by talking about the relationships between our values, feeling supported, and resources. And while it may be easy to point fingers in any conversation about resources in a resource-constrained environment, we recognized that all involved are moving forward with the best of intentions but too often without successfully stepping into the shoes of one another to better understand the resource allocation paradigm. And we began to wonder what experiments we might run to close the communication gap in the spirit of improved relationships, understanding and transparency with the goal of being more effective partners with those in leadership roles whose decisions we may not always understand. Stay tuned as we continue the work of closing some of the gaps that may contribute to the sense of burnout percolating through our department.
Values ↔ Support ↔ Resources
In the meantime, I have [linked] a recent publication that focuses primarily on physicians when it comes to the national phenomenon of burnout in our provider community. The principles apply more broadly to all of us. Please send me a note if you have your own thoughts about experiments we might run in order to better understand the problem and in better understanding the problem create solutions that might pave the way to a healthier future.
Last Thursday night I received a text from my brother who lives – or lived – in Paradise, California, a town largely destroyed by the Camp Fire still burning in northern California. He sent it so that his family would know that he and his wife had safely evacuated their home. He smelled smoke and heard about the evacuation order while driving to his place of business in Chico. He turned around to rescue his wife. By the time he arrived, it was clear that they were in trouble – the picture to the left was taken from his backyard. They ran to their car and escaped down a road threatened by fire on both sides. They would learn later that all 4 of the earliest reports of people who perished in their cars were discovered the road on which they live(d). It was close.
In response to the protestations of concern and grief from others, he responded with gratitude. Happy to be alive, happy that his wife was safe, grateful that the only things they lost – including not only their home but also her Paradise store – could be rebuilt and replaced, and grateful for the friends that offered them shelter.
For years he labored on creating the perfect man cave in a caboose carefully positioned on a segment of track constructed on a roadbed that he himself built. When he sent the picture of what remained of his caboose and the melted lamps adorning the yard around them I responded by saying, “A memorial to the place!” He replied, “Actually a project still in place.”
Last night he texted another picture with the caption, “It’s good to be homeless.” In the phone call that followed he reiterated the same, saying that compared to the suffering of others this was but a minor inconvenience that reminded him of the things that matter most.
This morning as I was writing this story, I received an email from a grateful patient dying of his widely disseminated cancer. He wanted to share with me the importance of the comfort he can offer to others in the midst of their grief, and he wanted to tell me about acceptance as a strategy for navigating this latest and perhaps last chapter in his life journey.
Never once have I walked out gratitude in a way that comes anywhere close to the courage and gratitude modeled with sincerity and grace by my brother and a patient who has taught me far more about life than I was able to teach him about his cancer. Daily I complain and worry about minor problems that pale in comparison and have little connection to the things that matter most. It is a reminder to me and perhaps to you the importance of gratitude, grace, kindness, and courage in the face of adversity, and that what matters most is not so much what happens to us but how we respond. Arianna Huffington said it this way:
“We have little power to choose what happens, but we have complete power over how we respond.”
That’s the news to the moment from my desktop at NCRC. Please send me a note if you have something that you would like to share with your teammates. Until the next time, let’s be careful out there . . .
By Jeffrey Myers, MD | 22 August | Department of Pathology Updates, Vol 4 (1)
Welcome to the latest edition of DOP Updates, a periodic email sent to members of our Department of Pathology (DOP) and other stakeholders to share information of common interest. Updates are also [linked] as a PDF file to preserve format across your mobile devices. Please send me a note if you have something that you would like to share regarding this or any future editions of Updates.
You did it!! In various ways each and every one of you participated in one of the most significant shifts in the history of our department – you executed the relocation half of our PRR (Pathology Relocation and Renovation) project. To the numerous staff, trainees and faculty who worked hard to make it a reality we owe a debt of gratitude. To one another we owe civility, compassion, and kindness as together we struggle to right the things that went wrong and return to a place of stability in which our focus, as always, can remain first and foremost on those who we are privileged to serve.
Already we are beginning to see some of the possibilities created at NCRC, measured not so much in terms of rewired workflows and logistics but instead by human interactions. We have, all of us, emigrated from geographically distributed care teams for whom parochial interests framed disparate and customized workflows and cultures. What worked in one place was done differently in another to the satisfaction of all participants. With our co-location of much of our clinical operations, we have new opportunities to re-think the power of standard work while also acknowledging the cost to individual prerogatives and the very human desire to preserve the standalone solutions long familiar to us.
We have also been reminded that change is hard. Robin Sharma reminds us that, “All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” Change of the magnitude endured over the last 8 weeks comes with its own unique set of challenges that in some cases was compounded by a near perfect storm seemingly determined to sink us at a time when we were already vulnerable. In histology, for example, days before our move we suffered the unanticipated loss of three highly productive histotechnologists to a combination of resignations and injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. This compounded existing shortfalls in staffing to which we were already recruiting. Combined with brand new models for specimen transport and revised workflows, the work slowed down. As communicated in previous emails our managers and supervisors responded with innovative plans to overcome the mismatch between demand and capacity, including mandatory overtime, weekend shifts, and realignment of patient care duties to better match our resources with those pain points most responsible for slowed delivery. Our managers, supervisors, and staff have been working elbow-to-elbow to do the work in a way that chisels away a backlog triggered less by our move and more by an unanticipated reduction in capacity. Rectifying this mismatch has been a topic of daily discussion at our administrative huddles to stay abreast of the challenges and tap into the collective wisdom of those gathered to focus on enterprise-wide challenges and countermeasures.
In addition to challenges in getting the work done, we have learned that some of the logical and valid assumptions about how cases and slides would from our laboratories and libraries to the places in which they are translated into diagnoses and reports has not gone as well as we had hoped. This does not reflect a failure to plan but rather the discovery that the plans we made, however thoughtfully developed, did not function as predicted. This is the power of P-D-C-A: planning is important but the plans themselves often serve only as vehicles from which to learn what we could not have otherwise known. In the absence of more robust solutions many of our work areas and neighborhoods have very understandably reverted to legacy models for transporting and archiving cases, models that made sense in a geographically dispersed practice but may make less sense as we learn to work more effectively in a place intended to leverage the unique opportunities that accrue from being together.
In our molecular laboratories, we are learning that moving in together creates opportunity but also brings the sorts of challenges inevitable when someone we like becomes the person who greets us each morning and says goodbye to us each day. It is the right thing to do but adjusting to the change more closely resembles a journey than it does a destination. As we courageously embrace uncomfortable opportunities unique to this place we are building and nurturing a culture of collaboration and innovation that positions us for success in delivering on the expectations appropriate for an industry leader in the molecular tools fundamental to the future of precision medicine.
And while challenges remain, by earlier this week we began to turn the corner on some key dissatisfiers affecting our staff, our trainees, our faculty, our providers, and most importantly our patients. We are transitioning from “hard” to “messy” with occasional glimpses of “gorgeous” if you tilt your head just right and imagine what’s possible.
For example strategies and tactics implemented by our managers and supervisors are paying off in histology. As of yesterday, our histology lab was back on track, cutting and delivering the work on a schedule that more closely resembled what previously served as our current state, and they are maintaining those gains through today. By aggressively recruiting in an area for which there is a thin and highly competitive applicant pool, at least one new candidate has agreed to relocate to Ann Arbor. With institutional support, we continue to fill open positions in the short term while opening conversations about long-term strategies such as Michigan Medicine-based educational programs in allied health fields to more confidently build the people talent required to sustain our future.
Earlier this week Corrie Pennington-Block, Scott Owens and I met to talk about the scope of a project to tend to unanticipated gaps in delivery and archiving of cases and related assets. Today an email went out to medical leaders and managers inviting nominees to participate in a project that has as its primary goal to address shortfalls in timely delivery, sign out, and archiving of cases. This project piggybacks onto already GREAT work being done by our slide delivery team and our AP Laboratory Operations group, recognizing that the scope of this opportunity is bigger than any single division and will require focused collaborative work that crosses clinical and administrative units. Stay tuned for further updates as we work to first understand and then mitigate gaps in our ability to deliver on service level expectations.
Civility as an expectation and a strategy
Don Berwick, a luminary and opinion maker when it comes to quality and safety in medicine, described in his 2015 IHI keynote address the importance of civility as a tactic for transitioning medicine from what he characterized as Era 2 to Era 3. If you can find the time it is worth the 52.5 minutes required to hear his entire speech at HERE. But if you have only 1.5 minutes to spare, jump to the 35:15 mark of his talk. He quotes long-time Board Chair of IHI and former Board Chair of the Mayo Clinic Foundation, Dr. Bob Waller, who said, “Everything possible begins in civility.” Dr. Berwick goes on to say that in Era 2, which is the era in which we now find ourselves, “civility, and therefore possibility, have been in much too short supply” concluding that “healthcare needs the decorum not of a boxing ring but of a dinner table.”
In these times of change and stress, how we treated and cared for one another will be remembered far longer than the time it took to get a case, our transportation failures, and the transparency of our walls. And how we treated one another will color how we are perceived by others including those who look to us for comfort and hope. We will bridge the gap from messy to gorgeous at NCRC. And that bridge will rest on a foundation of civility and a common commitment to the things that matter most when it comes to the rewards realized from working together to create the future of our discipline.
That’s the news to the moment. Please send me a note if you have comments or would like to share something in the next edition of DOP Updates. In the meantime, let’s be careful out there . . .
By Kara Gavin | 27 June | Michigan Headlines
A new facility opened this week at the University of Michigan will touch the lives of nearly every person treated at U-M clinics and hospitals, and patients across the state and nation. Called the Michigan Medicine Clinical Pathology facility, it will improve how patients and doctors get vital information from samples of patients’ cells, tissues, blood, urine, saliva and DNA.
The state-of-the-art location will allow thousands of doctors to diagnose or track their patients’ diseases, plan their treatment and see how they’re responding to care.
Millions of patient samples will arrive at the new location each year, to be tested by teams of highly-trained staff using advanced equipment, then examined by specialized U-M physicians called pathologists who can provide an expert diagnosis.
Built as part of a $160 million project, the 139,000-square-foot facility will make it possible for U-M’s Department of Pathology to serve the ever-growing demand for advanced clinical and anatomic pathology testing. Some of the tests U-M offers are available from few other places in the country.
That demand has risen nearly eight percent every year for the last decade. And nearly 10 percent of the demand comes from outside U-M, from hospitals that send samples hundreds of miles for advanced testing through the MLabs service.
First patient sample arrives
India Stone uses PathTrack to scan the first specimen received in our new laboratory space.This week, the first patient sample tested at the new facility traveled just 2.6 miles, from U-M’s main University Hospital to a dedicated entrance at the North Campus Research Complex.
A new digital tracking system kept an eye on the sample’s progress from the time the sample was obtained through testing, registered the pathologist’s expert diagnosis, and then shared the results with the health team that ordered the test. Michigan Medicine patients can access their own lab test results, and doctors’ notes about them, via an online portal and mobile app.
“This new Clinical Pathology facility will allow us to keep pace with the rapidly accelerating growth in sophisticated analysis of patient samples, improving efficiency and turnaround time while providing more than 1,100 different test options for the providers who rely on us,” says Charles Parkos, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pathology. “This is the most up-to-date pathology facility in the country.”
Designed for lean operations
Spacious laboratories with natural lighting bring similar tests together under one roof, increasing efficiency and building in redundancies in case of equipment failure.The project to create the new clinical pathology facility started more than four years ago with a nearly-blank slate: four vacant and connected buildings in northeast Ann Arbor originally built for pharmaceutical research. All were part of U-M’s 2009 purchase of a research complex formerly owned by Pfizer, Inc. Some of the buildings had just been constructed when Pfizer sold them.
Most of the 30 buildings at NCRC now house U-M research laboratories and other operations. The new project, in the southern portion of the site, represents the first permanent use of NCRC facilities for clinical care operations.
Converting the empty buildings for clinical use, and preparing to move many clinical operations out of the main U-M medical campus with no interruption to patient care, took years of careful planning. The project also includes renovation of Pathology space at University Hospital to create a faster and more modern facility for rapid testing that guides the care of hospitalized patients.
Throughout the process, staff and faculty used the “lean thinking” approach pioneered by the auto industry to design their new space with architects, engineers, designers and vendors. They sought to bring together testing operations, administrative functions and educational programs that were previously spread out among 10 separate locations across the medical campus and the city.
"Central Park" is the largest of many collaborative spaces designed to inspire process improvements.For each type of test Pathology offers, the team created the ideal layout for sample handling, testing equipment, clinical consultation space, and educational space for faculty to train the next generation of pathologists through U-M’s top-ranked residency and fellowship training programs.
Each type of test has its own dedicated area, with many new pieces of technology purchased for the new site. In some cases, the process that staff had to follow in their old location required them to walk hundreds of steps. With the lean-designed facility, that will be cut to dozens of steps.
Many pathology specialties in one place
Bringing many functions together in one place will improve efficiency and speed – but also improve patient care. For instance, Parkos says, when a cancer patient has surgery to remove a tumor, pieces of the cancerous tissue are brought to the Surgical Pathology area to be preserved, finely sliced, stained and placed on microscope slides for pathologists to examine.
Previously, if the pathologists wanted to seek the input of other specialists, they often had to walk as far as half a mile to get another opinion. Now, they can walk into the next room and ask, making for more efficient, timely and accurate care.
Another major feature of the new facility is in the Microbiology area, where teams process samples from patients with suspected infectious diseases ranging from the mundane to the exotic. A new 40-foot-long automated BD Kiestra system will help staff reduce the time to diagnosis by five to ten hours – saving critical time for patients seeking the most effective care for the infection that’s causing their symptoms, and for those seeking to prevent further spread to others.
Other improvements abound. A new electron microscopy lab will improve the speed for detailed examination of fine structures inside patients’ kidneys, for instance. Six molecular diagnostic laboratories have been co-located, enabling cross-coverage and equipment redundancy. This will enable faster genetic testing to look for mutations in DNA that may be causing a patient’s disease.
All of this, Parkos notes, positions Michigan Medicine well for the era of precision health, where an individual patient’s care can be designed based on his or her unique characteristics down to the level of DNA variations. The facility will also be able to offer new tests emerging from U-M research.
For more about the project see http://michmed.org/E1jwx
For more about Precision Health at U-M, see https://precisionhealth.umich.edu/
An article in the June edition of CAP Today outlines the transformation that the Department of Pathology has undergone via lean facility design in its move to the North Campus Research Complex. Through interviews with Department Chair, Charles A. Parkos, MD, PhD as well as Pathology Relocation and Renovation Project Manager, Christine Baker, and other leaders, you’ll learn how the process involved engaging faculty and staff to discover the best workflows for specimens, people, and materials, leading to improvements in patient care. Read the full story.
By Jeffrey Myers, MD | 6 April | Department of Pathology Update Vol. 3.5
Today brings another edition of DOP Updates, an email sent to members of our Department of Pathology (DOP) team and interested stakeholders to keep you abreast of issues of common interest. Updates are also [linked] as a PDF file to preserve formatting across whatever mobile devices you are using to read it. Please send me a note if you have something to include next time.
Aerial Shot of the North Campus Research Center (NCRC).Today marks 58 days until our first patient specimens make their way to the North Campus Research Center (NCRC) as the first phase of our Pathology Relocation and Renovation (PRR) becomes a reality. This is a journey that began over 4 years ago when we were confronted with the opportunity to co-locate clinical operations, staff and faculty in a place challenged by its distance from the home to which we have become accustomed for over 30 years!
From the beginning, there was understandable and valid skepticism about the wisdom of such a move. And despite whatever your personal skepticism all of you have worked hard to sustain our commitment to delivering world-class care from a shifted paradigm that was hard to imagine in our earliest days. With the help of Christine Baker, Duane Newton, PhD and their remarkable Lean design and implementation teams we learned the power of harnessing the experience and creativity of those who do the work to design and build our future, a future designed with the flexibility to respond to the rapidly changing landscape of laboratory medicine in particular and academic medicine in general.
This is an exciting and intimidating moment in our history that stands to change the way we care for our patients and one another in very substantial ways. The work that you have done to get us here will stand as a durable tribute to our determination to do better tomorrow what we already do well today, not because it was easy but because it was hard. Celebrating victories that come at no cost is the stuff of everyday politics; creating unique value in a place from which critics said no value could emerge is altogether different and the sort of breakthrough worthy of celebration by those who discern the things that distinguish great from the merely good. And as we are reminded from time to time, achieving these sorts of breakthroughs rests not on the shoulders of individuals but on the shoulders of the team, the team, the team!
As we find our way to the rapidly approaching finish line, it is critically important that all of us – frontline staff, administrative support, technical leads and supervisors, managers, medical directors, trainees, students, and faculty – remain focused on our purpose which is to transform the experiences of our patients, their families, their providers and one another in ways that delight and surprise them and us. There is no doubt that much of what we’ve planned will prove wrong while also serving as the learning opportunities essential for getting it right in the spirit of P-D-C-A. We will discover unanticipated challenges that will require innovative responses while also learning the power of working together in an environment that celebrates collaboration and creativity.
Should you ultimately decide that this is not the place for you we will understand, but wait until we get there to pass judgment. The truth is you cannot know unless and until you walk the walk. Between now and then we ask that all keep their eyes on the collective prize that has been years in the making. This is your time . . . make the most of it!
On December 13, 2017, we had our first discovery meeting to understand the challenge of bringing on our MidMichigan Health (MIDM) patients and colleagues, including all of their affiliated hospitals, as a reference laboratory client. Our purpose was to do what had never been done in so short a time – to build functional orders and reporting interface, an online handbook, and the infrastructure and workflows that would allow us to serve their reference laboratory need going forward. . . . and to do that in a little more than 3 months! By way of comparison, the time required to do this work is traditionally more like 6-12 months. Responding to this opportunity while also doing the work required for our move to NCRC seemed nearly an impossible task, and yet on March 27, 2018, at 07:00 we went live as the reference laboratory provider for MIDM!
As is always true in a project intended to deliver a “minimum viable product (MVP)” that safeguards the interests of our patients at launch while serving as the platform from which to learn and grow, we have learned an enormous amount since our go-live date. Our teams are working hard to rapidly implement countermeasures while memorializing lessons learned. The information captured both before and since go-live by Julia Dahl, MD and her cross-functional, multidisciplinary team will allow us to not only continuously improve the services provided to MIDM but also to replicate the work in a more sustainable and scalable fashion as Michigan Medicine continues to expand our integrated network to sustain our viability as an academic health care system going forward.
And as with NCRC and PRR, our collective success in doing this is necessarily the work of the team, the team, the team! In this case, the team includes not only those who dedicated weekdays, weekends, mornings, afternoons and evenings to building it but also to the staff and faculty who have responded with hard work and creative ideas since going live on March 27th. THANK YOU to the countless individuals who together account for this remarkable success story!! There can be no better example of what it means to reap the reward realized from working together to accomplish what others predicted was impossible – that truly is the Michigan Difference!
Civil rights members pointing in direction of the assailant who shot Martin Luther King Jr. / Photo: Joseph Louw/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.On Wednesday we paused to remember April 4, 1968, the day on which Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray as he stood on a balcony at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN just after 6 pm as he prepared to join friends and supporters for dinner.
I was 13, living a privileged life in Sioux Falls, SD, a place well removed from the racial tension of Memphis. I remember the moment as news-worthy rather than something that touched my life or heart as it did those suffering the consequences of racism and hate. On Wednesday StoryCorps pinged my email box with a message to commemorate the anniversary. The text read, “On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember his legacy as told by StoryCorps participants.”
“Participants” included Dion Diamond who at 15 began his own non-violent protest of private “sit-ins” in response to a lifetime of “whites only” signs in Arlington, Virginia. With the unimaginable courage of the sort that seems less common today, he modeled the strategies of Martin Luther King, Jr by sitting where he wasn’t welcome to spark the dialogue that would eventually change the law, even if not the culture. At 76 he looks back and acknowledges that his grandchildren may not be, “the least bit interested” but he remains proud that in the book of world history, “a period or a comma in that book is my contribution.” His experience challenges us to remember that, “The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.” (Kent Keith. The Paradoxical Commandments)
“Participants” included Lawrence Cumberbatch who shares with his son Simeon what it was like to walk for 13 days to make his way from New York City to Washington, DC to bear witness to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He tells about being marched for 30 miles through the state of Delaware with state troopers in front and behind to make sure that they did not stop for any reason. When asked what he thought about the speech he responded that, “‘Nobody who was on that podium was thinking about the speech.’ It was just mind-blowing to look at this sea of people. You’ll never see this again.” More than 50 years later, Dr. King’s dream remains just out of reach as we continue to judge others not by the content of their character but by the color of their skin, the place that they call home, their place in the hierarchy of socioeconomic class, or any other differences that set them apart from those with whom we’ve grown comfortable. For Simeon, his father’s march made him, “a hero of mine.”
Listen to Martin Luther King, Jr's last Sermon.And the participants included Bessie and Taylor Rogers who on April 3, 1968, were in the Mason Temple in Memphis when Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that he had been to the mountaintop from which he could see the promised land. In a message that was eerily prophetic, he assured those in attendance that they would get there even if he himself might not get there with them. He comforted them that he was, “happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.” It was his last speech. For Taylor, it was, “kinda like you lost a part of your family. You really can’t describe it. He stopped everything, put everything aside to come to Memphis to see about the people on the bottom of the ladder, the sanitation workers.”
Anniversaries of this sort are cause for nostalgia and reflection. But until nostalgia and reflection translate into real change the promised land for many remains a cruel dream. Those like me who are insulated from the reality of persistent discrimination and hate might easily conclude that the world is a better place compared to 50 years ago. And perhaps in some ways it is. But in many other ways, we continue to avoid the work that will take us to that place in which we are each of us judged not for our differences and our weaknesses and failures but for the victories to which every human being can lay claim as a precious and once-in-a-lifetime inhabitant of this place.
It starts here. Never underestimate your own capacity to change the world. Start with the ways in which you treat one another, and especially the way we treat those who look to us for comfort when confronted with disease and discomfort. It starts with you.
That’s the news to the moment. Send me an email if you have something that you would like to share with others. Until the next time, let’s be careful out there . . .
Lady Blue by Cel aromin Gallardo, Hematology. Acrylic on canvas.Our new space at the North Campus Research Complex includes many opportunities for incorporating artwork. Three art gallery spaces have been designated for rotating art exhibits and it's been determined that the inaugural exhibit in these galleries will feature artwork created by those in the Department of Pathology.
We're calling all pathology staff, faculty, and students, to enter their original artwork in any medium and any theme for consideration in display in this exhibit. Enter your work by April 15th at http://bit.ly/PathEmployeeArt18
We look forward to highlighting the talents of our Department of Pathology teammates in this exhibit that will run from mid-May to December 1st.
Welcome to a year-end edition of DOP Updates, an email sent to members of our Department of Pathology (DOP) team and others to focus on issues, events, and topics of common interest. If there is something that you would like to share with your colleagues and co-workers, please send me an email and I’ll be sure to include it next time. As with all previous editions, I have also attached a PDF of this to preserve formatting across platforms.
Building a Sacred Place (by Risa Tisdale VanDerAue IN: Linda R. Larin (Editor). Inspired to Change. Improving Patient Care One Story at a Time. Health Administration Press. Chicago. 2014)
Ten years ago, a cardiac tumor brought me into the hospital. What I found in this place of healing was a sacred space, built by people who were moved by their own hearts to mend the patients’ bodies and souls and to care for their entire families. Let me share my story with you.
At age 29 and pregnant with my second child, I went into fulminant heart failure and was air-lifted to an academic medical center. An atrial myxoma was making it impossible for me to breathe. The tumor was successfully removed, but my system began to fail, requiring me to be placed on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) life support. While unconscious and sustained by machines and prayers, I delivered my stillborn daughter. In her death, she bequeathed the gift of life. Had I not been pregnant, my tumor would not have been discovered until it was too late. My precious child bestowed her soul to me and to her sister, who at two years old needed her mom.
When I awoke about six weeks later, I found that I was connected to another machine – an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) – to help my heart pump blood. I was told that this apparatus would let my heart rest while I waited for a transplant. On Christmas Day in 2003, with my toddler sitting on my lap, I was wheeled out of the hospital and sent home with a backpack containing heavy batteries and a constantly whirring pump. Sometimes I joke that I used every department the hospital had to offer except Orthopedics, but that is not an exaggeration. I am alive and healthy today because of the innovative technology created through modern health science. My inspiration for telling my story, however, is not the machines but the humanity my family and I experienced during my stay. Yes, I was on many life support systems, but not all of them were plugged into a wall socket. The staff – from the maintenance crew to the surgeons – were my spiritual life support, keeping me alive and my family comforted and reassured with their pure gestures of compassion, kindness, and concern.
My parents and sister moved into the waiting room outside the cardiac ICU so that I was never alone. The ICU staff not only supported their presence but also encouraged it. My family ate, slept, and prayed near my bedside, and the waiting room became something of a sanctuary for those who came to visit me. They filled the room with food and drink, blankets and pillows, and love and support. A kind housekeeping employee checked in on my family, by name, every day. He would only clean the room when it caused the least amount of disruption to my family and not when it was most convenient for him. My father offered him a small gratuity to thank him for his patience, but the man kindly declined, saying he was only doing his job. But for us, his occupation was not just janitorial but also as a healer; he healed our souls with his deeds just as the surgeons fixed my heart with their scalpels.
During my lengthy stay in the hospital, my family and I encountered hundreds of doctors, nurses, and support staff who treated us with dignity, respect, and compassion. Many of them stayed well past the end of their shifts to sit with us and to offer comfort and support. Doctors from all departments visited, sometimes after 14-hour surgeries, to inquire about my condition and how my family was holding up. Nursing assistants made special accommodations for my young daughter to spend time with me; they covered my LVAD and silenced the alarms so she would not become frightened.
At a particularly dire moment, a young man mopping the floors found my sister in the basement of the hospital, consumed with grief and fear, weeping alone. He stopped what he was doing, bought her a soda from the vending machine, and asked what he could do to help. A soda may be a small gesture, but that night it was a grand, unforgettable gift to my sister. It was an unsolicited donation from a compassionate heart who reached out to a soul in need – a sacred gift, indeed.
Fortunately, I did not end up needing a transplant; my heart healed on its own, and in February 2004, my LVAD was removed. I was one of the lucky ones. When the doctor signed my final discharge papers, I was not quite sure what to do. He told me to go home and live my life. With my daughter, now almost 12 years old, by my side, I have done just that. I was given a chance for a full life made possible through innumerable gifts from so many willing, loving, and dedicated people.
I thought that my family and I were the only recipients of this great gift of healing and recovery, but I was wrong. A heart transplant coordinator, who came with me to all of my tests and procedures, shared with me that my case had touched her. A few years earlier, another young person with a similar condition did not survive, and the staff was devastated. My recovery and my discharge on Christmas Day turned out to be a gift to the staff, to each and every person who we had come into contact with during my long ordeal. It reinvigorated them and reinforced their dedication to helping save the lives of others. It reminded them what they do makes a difference, that who they are matters, and that their sacrifices are valuable.
In the years since my discharge, I have been asked on many occasions to tell my story. When the new cardiovascular center was being designed and built, I sat on a panel to research what patients would like to see in the facility. When the building was completed, I spoke at staff training sessions to help prepare the staff for their transition to the new center. In truth, the medical details of my illness have begun to fade from my memory, and for that I am grateful. I no longer remember the number of heart catheterizations I had or the number of chest tubes inserted into me. But I vividly remember the compassion, love, and kindness my family and I received. My heart healed, in part, because of the sacred gifts from those whose hearts were moved to be so caring for us.
Great organizations differ from good ones in many important ways. Some would argue that chief among them is a clearly articulated and deeply embedded sense of purpose. Simon Sinek maintains that greatness is rooted in knowing why you do what you do as opposed to focusing solely on what you do and how you do it. It is the difference between knowing what happens in our laboratories and how, and instead doing all of this knowing at your core that we are in the business of transforming the experience of patients and families from a laboratory platform deeply rooted in a legacy of world-class care, a generations-deep commitment to educating those who will care for us, and the discipline to invest in the discoveries that will change for the better how those we’ve not yet met will experience health and disease in the future. That is our why. We do what we do because we believe that we can change the world or at least a piece of it.
Success in changing the world brings with it an insatiable appetite for leadership. Not leadership as traditionally defined by positions of authority, but instead leadership as walked out every day by those at all levels of our department and organization who step forward to understand and solve problems while others are content with things as they are. The capacity to lead resides in all of us and hinges on a willingness to step beyond the limits of our own comfort with the determination to deliver us to a better place in which compassion and kindness are our guides.
I was thinking about these things when a friend shared with me a poem now almost 50 years old, The Paradoxical Commandments, written by Kent Keith to offer guidance to student leaders when he was only 19 years old. It seems to me relevant today as we care for others, inspired by stories like Risa VanDerAue’s whose journey was touched not only by her nurses and doctors but also by “pure gestures of compassion, kindness, and concern” from staff who volunteered a soda (“a grand, unforgettable gift”) to her sister in a time of need, and another who became a healer by prioritizing her family’s interests above his own schedule. And as a consequence, the world changed. Perhaps these simple suggestions from Kent Keith will bring us one step closer to transformation in 2018.
The Paradoxical Commandments
Kent M. Keith
2017 has been a remarkable year for our Department of Pathology across all of our missions. In our clinical domain, we’ve lost talented faculty and staff to retirement, end of life, and career transitions of the sort that are the hallmark of places to which others turn for the talent important to achieving their own dreams and aspirations. And in response, we have continued to recruit the very best and brightest at an astounding rate, testimony to the strength and appeal of a place that prides itself on the rewards realized from working together to transform the experience of patients and their families, those who care for them, and one another. I was once told that an ability to recruit highly talented faculty, staff, trainees, and students is a key metric when it comes to judging the strength of any academic enterprise, and on that score, I suspect we remain 2nd to none!
In the last year, we’ve seen our Pathology Informatics group tackle enormous opportunities and challenges in a way that others can only envy. Accomplishments include continued evolution of our increasingly robust laboratory information system (LIS). They have also worked with colleagues in our Division of Quality and Health Improvement (DQHI) to create novel solutions in support of our Patient Assets Management Initiative (PAMI). In partnership with Lloyd Stoolman, Josh Jacques, and Peter Ouillette they have supported new digital solutions that will position us for success in our relocation and renovation project.
Our clinical laboratories, in collaboration with DQHI, have maintained their commitment to doing better tomorrow the things we already do well today through continuous improvement and a passionate belief in what’s possible. Our collaborative investments in quality were on review in another extremely successful visit by peers representing the College of American Pathology (CAP), resulting in re-accreditation of our laboratories.
In addition to their support of compliance and leading our project to revolutionize our ability to track the precious patient assets entrusted to our care, DQHI faculty and staff are working with others across departments and schools to create new value by doing only the right tests for the right patients at the right time through more appropriate utilization of laboratory resources. And our Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) celebrated its first birthday as it continues to work directly with patients and families to more fully understand our opportunities to transform their experience of care.
MLabs continued to extend our ability to touch the lives of patients who live beyond the historical reach of own health system, acquiring new clients from coast-to-coast while also supporting regional growth strategies for Michigan Medicine including an agreement signed only this month with MidMichigan Health to become their primary reference laboratory provider. Restructuring combined with a focus on strategy has positioned us to succeed as a premier reference laboratory provider dedicated to building relationships focused on improving the health of patients and families everywhere. And we do this by offering access to the talented students, trainees, staff and faculty who are most responsible for our collective successes . . . Mlabs is YOU!
And 2017 saw BIG PROGRESS in our Pathology Relocation and Renovation (PRR) project that will see a large part of our clinical operations relocate to the North Campus Research Center (NCRC) this summer. More than anything we’ve done together, this project illustrates the power of entrusting those who do the work with designing our future. It is impossible to overstate the power of co-locating so many of our clinical operations, learners, staff, and faculty when it comes to our innovative capacity. Whatever the challenges of providing care at a distance, I have never been more confident in our ability to change the way we care for others from our redesigned laboratory and non-laboratory spaces.
As great as our accomplishments in 2017, there is every reason to believe that 2018 will be another year in which we will have much to celebrate . . . HAPPY NEW YEAR!
That’s the news for the moment. Thank you for all that each and every one of you has done and continues to do on behalf of our patients and their families, whether they are those who look to us for comfort today, or are instead the patients we’ve not yet met who will be the beneficiaries of our commitment to educating those who will follow us and the discoveries with the potential to change the future of healthcare. There is much to be done, but nowhere is there a team more powerful than this one when it comes to the rewards realized from working together to transform the experience of patients, their families, those who care for them, and one another. And as we build this sacred place, let’s be careful out there . . .
The Department of Pathology is seeking photomicrographs, graphs, and charts to bring life to the walls at the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC). The images will be displayed in a variety of ways, including on digital signage and in art galleries.
We encourage your participation in helping us share how beautiful and interesting pathology can be. Images can be submitted for consideration by using the Google Form located at http://bit.ly/umichpathart.
We’ll need new images throughout the year, so don’t hesitate to submit them at any time. However, to be considered for display during the NCRC launch, you’ll need to submit your images by January 13.
Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior.Dee Hock
I read this quote one evening last week, while we were in the midst of design sessions at the 3-D Cave on North Campus, and thought it was very fitting for the amazing work being done by our teams within Pathology and in connection with our design team for the PRR Project. United by a common vision for new space developed around ideal specimen, people and material flows, the team made advances in laying out equipment, processes, and work spaces.
The UH Renovation teams met at the Virtual Reality cave, where we first did a "virtual" 2-D walkthrough of the space with our architect, Laurie DaForno, "walking" the teams through the space. Then, we alternated time at the table laying out equipment and discussing workflow with an experience in "immersion" in the 3-D Cave. The methods of viewing the space provided the following benefits:
We asked a few teams afterwards for feedback—and received positive comments related to the helpfulness of the Design Team (the architects and equipment planners) as well as the fascinating experience of getting to see and experience the space in the Cave. One user said "I have been very concerned with things up to this point, but now having worked with Joe and Laurie today and now seeing the space in the cave, I am really excited".
Most groups will continue to meet in this manner, further laying out equipment and processes, and then testing it with spaghetti charting. The groups will start having mock-ups—one group each month—starting with the Blood Bank neighborhood in November.
Over the past 5 years, the Pathology Department's clinical needs have grown at a rate of 7.8% annually. This, along with the general growth of UMHS, has created a demand for a larger footprint and more efficient space.
It has also created the need to bring together faculty, staff, trainees and laboratories long spread out across different campus zones.
As a result, the PRR project is part of a multi-year renovation and relocation that features two phases.
Innovation drives this project. Once completed, the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) stage of this multi-year project will allow Pathology to call four contiguous buildings home. When fully functional, new laboratories will transform the patient experience and produce better outcomes. Offices and work spaces will be equally innovative, because they are designed to encourage collaborative discovery and cooperation across disciplines at a time when digital technologies play an increasingly important role in how we provide care.
The Innovative concepts and ideas from Phase one are being brought forward into Phase two, with its own unique challenges and opportunities created by a large renovation effort in occupied and operational lab space.
All told, the NCRC and UH renovation and relocation plans affect about 186,000 gross square feet and will drive positive trends related to growth, expenses, and opportunities for collaboration.
The insights gained from our PRR project will allow our team to share best practices with future health system renovations, relocations and activations.
Learn more by perusing the sections on the left-hand navigation of this page.
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Breast team reviewing a patient's slide. (From left to right) Ghassan Allo, Fellow; Laura Walters, Clinical Lecturer; Celina Kleer, Professor. See Article
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Autopsy Technician, Quintina Glover, draws blood while working in the Wayne County morgue. See Article
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Dr. Sriram Venneti, MD, PhD and Postdoctoral Fellow, Chan Chung, PhD investigate pediatric brain cancer. See Article
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Director of the Neuropathology Fellowship, Dr. Sandra Camelo-Piragua serves on the Patient and Family Advisory Council.
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MLabs, established in 1985, functions as a portal to provide pathologists, hospitals. and other reference laboratories access to the faculty, staff and laboratories of the University of Michigan Health System’s Department of Pathology. MLabs is a recognized leader for advanced molecular diagnostic testing, helpful consultants and exceptional customer service.