Nine months ago at an event celebrating our Medical School’s Medical Arts Program, I met Alex Kip – an extraordinary and talented young man who is a recent graduate of Michigan’s Musical Theater program and also a cancer survivor. Meet Alex:
Alex Kip is the epitome of courage. In the face of having his Broadway dreams destroyed, he adapted to his new reality and turned it into a way to evolve and reinvent himself as a person and as an artist. It can be easy to give up and become a victim of circumstance. It is not easy to confront and surmount obstacles that get in the way of your dreams. Yet, that’s what Alex has done.
Alex’s story is not unlike many we encounter all of the time in our Health System. Day in and day out, we engage with people who are dealing with scary and stressful life-altering and life-threatening situations.
Let’s be honest – we deliver a lot of bad news. But, more often than not, in the face of that bad news and the journey that follows, we are privileged to witness and experience transformational moments of strength, survival and courage. Nothing is more inspiring.
As you know, I believe that there are several attributes that distinguish extraordinary institutions and extraordinary individuals from ordinary institutions and ordinary individuals, and I call these the 7Cs. The 7Cs are Moral Compass, Compassion, Contribution, Commitment, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity. After meeting Alex and because of the many similar stories that abound at UMHS, I’ve decided that it’s time to add Courage as the 8th C.
I’ve seen courage in many forms across our Health System.
There was the Survival Flight crash in 2007. Although I was still in Indiana at the time, I remember hearing the devastating news. To this day, I am moved and inspired by the fact that the UMHS community had the courage to mourn together, support one another and move forward more determined than ever to honor the lives of those we lost.
Then there was last year’s child pornography case, which put our Health System and our University under great scrutiny. It was a troubling and difficult time for all of us, and we courageously took ownership of the issue, implemented important changes and demonstrated that UMHS is an institution of high ethics, and that when a mistake is made, we do not focus on blame, but instead on addressing the root cause of the problem in order to continuously improve and do better.
This year, we have faced significant financial challenges, and when we put out a call to action, you stepped up and implemented improvement strategies that have already had substantial positive impact. We have more work to do and we need to prioritize ongoing good stewardship of our resources, but based on what we’ve already accomplished in these last several months, I am confident that we will weather the storm brought about by increasing competition, sequestration, health care reform and other challenges. This is not easy work, and it takes great courage.
And personally, I learned the true and most raw meaning of courage when I was faced with my husband Mark’s death. That experience taught me about perspective and balance. When you are confronted with something so massive, so unexpected and so disruptive to your life and your future, you become acutely aware of what is truly important to you. And this month, the loss of our dear friend and colleague Dr. Steven Gradwohl once again reminded me of this lesson and of what is fundamentally important – things like family, friends and making a meaningful difference in the world. In the face of life-changing events, you remember who you are and the values that define you.
When you remain true to your values, you have the courage to forge ahead. This is not only true of individuals, but also of institutions.
I am proud that we are a courageous institution that displays this virtue not only in the face of adversity, but always.
By being even more courageous – bolder, more innovative, more entrepreneurial and more risk-taking – we will further distinguish ourselves as leaders and best, as a premier academic medical center and as the institution and the community that will create the future of health care.
What act(s) of courage inspire(d) you?