At UMHS, the Season of Giving Lasts 365 Days a Year

Once again, it’s the ‘season of giving.’ Medical students recently hit the cold and snowy streets of Ann Arbor to collect donations during Galen’s Tag Days 2013. Members of the Detroit Red Wings decked our halls to bring smiles to patients’ (and employees’) faces. And people don festive holiday ties, sweaters and socks to bring a little bit of joy into an ordinary day. Each December, I am energized by the spirit of cheer and generosity that is amplified this time of year.

I’ve written before on the topic of giving back as a way to make the world a better place. At UMHS, we don’t have to look beyond our own walls to witness and experience many inspiring examples of people of all ages and abilities giving back in meaningful ways.

Consider musician-composer Paul Skripnik who, at the age of 29, put on a patient gown and prepared to undergo an operation surgery that he hoped would alleviate him of the daily threat of seizures and allow him to do what he loves most – write and play music. For Paul, living with epilepsy meant living with a troublesome burden that left him afraid to walk on the sidewalk, cross the street or drive. He longed for treatment that would give him hope and health, and he found both as a patient in the UMHS Comprehensive Epilepsy Program. After a series of tests and consultations, the epilepsy care team led by Drs. Simon Glynn and Oren Sagher determined a treatment plan for Paul. In September 2011, he underwent a successful brain surgery that eliminated his seizures. This year, Paul celebrated a year and a half of seizure-free living with a concert featuring his original compositions. Additionally, in October, he performed and participated in a lecture as part of U-M’s Investing in Ability Week. Paul has turned his challenging experience into an opportunity to give back by increasing awareness and generating support for others living with epilepsy.

Then, there are wonderful people like Pat and Frank Ducato. Seven years ago, Frank experienced life-saving care at UMHS. In 2009, the couple decided to give back as volunteers in the Comprehensive Cancer Center. One afternoon each week, Pat provides assistance as a greeter at the CCC main lobby courtesy desk, while Frank helps patients and visitors access important cancer information as a volunteer in the Patient Education Resource Center. When interviewed for a story published last fall, Frank recalled giving some coloring books and cancer literature to the children of a mom undergoing breast cancer treatment. He remembered the husband coming up to him during the family’s next visit to thank him and say that after the children read the literature, they treated their mother differently. In Frank’s own words, he conveys the power of giving: “You get so much from being able to help somebody like that.”

And, finally, I was recently reminded of the extraordinary and generous act of a very special fourth-grader named Maya. A few years ago, when annual giving officer Kathy Valley opened one of many holiday cards, she found three one-dollar bills and the following message: “Here is the last of my Christmas money. Please use it to take care of people with cancer, from Maya.”

Generosity comes in all types and sizes. Whether it is $3, three hours of volunteer service, three handmade quilts or three months of participation in a clinical trial, every act of giving contributes to our greater mission to help and heal.

Charles Dickens, author of the classic holiday novella A Christmas Carol, once said “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

This might be the time of year when society most publicly encourages and displays the spirit of generosity, but here at the University of Michigan Health System, the season of giving lasts 365 days a year. This is a place where generosity and compassion drive the important work we do each and every day, and we couldn’t do what we do as well as we do it without our exceptional faculty, staff, students, volunteers, philanthropists, advocates, friends and supporters.

Enjoy “Never Doubt,” a slideshow that celebrates giving at UMHS, and feel free to share your experiences with generosity in the comments section below.

Thanks for all that you do!

Happy holidays!

Reasons To Be Thankful

This week, many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving and take time to appreciate those things for which we are fortunate and grateful. As a Health System and as a community united by a commitment to improving health and saving lives, we have many reasons to be thankful. I’d like to share just a few of them with you in this post.

Graph 10 years_SmallThis year, we performed our 2000th liver transplant and our 200th transcatheter aortic valve replacement, and we delivered our first set of quintuplets. We celebrated the Department of Radiology’s centennial, as well as Gifts of Arts’ silver anniversary. And because of ongoing continuous improvement initiatives, patient satisfaction is at an all-time high. We are on target to achieve a satisfaction index score of 93 by Fiscal Year 2017, which is the goal defined in our strategic plan. I will be surprised if we haven’t exceeded our target by that time!

Research coming out of our Medical School resulted in a record 133 new inventions and 41 patents, representing one-third of the University’s total output. In addition, we produced significant discoveries across the spectrum of disease and care delivery, including adding disease-specific stem cell lines to the national registry, coordinating a global DNA study that identified new drug targets and a bigger role for triglycerides in heart risk, demonstrating a cellular difference in the body clocks of people with depression, and discovering that commonly used catheters actually double the risk of blood clots in ICU and cancer patients.

The excellence of our Medical School training and students was honored with an incredible gift of $30 million in scholarship support from Rich and Susan Rogel. At the same time, the compassion of our Medical School family was powerfully evident in how you supported one another after Paul DeWolf’s tragic death, and in rebuilding the Student Run Free Clinic after it burned down in February.

Thanks to the voices of many individuals and groups within and outside our community, Michigan Medicaid expansion was passed and 400,000 Michiganders now qualify for health insurance. Additionally, we continue to be prominent in advancing the dialogue around health care reform, the Affordable Care Act, research funding and more.

And, thanks to extraordinary efforts of faculty and staff across the entire Health System, we have been operating at roughly a 3 percent margin for the last 10 months. This is a terrific place to be, given the challenges we’re facing. We want to continue on this trajectory, heading toward a goal of a 5 percent margin by 2017.

I know that each of us is grateful for the opportunity to play a role in creating the future of health care, and I am thankful for our incredible staff, faculty, students, trainees and volunteers. There can be no greater privilege than to work with you in this extraordinary organization.

This week, please remember to take time to say ‘thank you’ to those who help you do what you do, because we never do it alone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Gift of Service

The University of Michigan Health System is a remarkable place with exceptional people who never forget the reason why they come to work every day of the year: to promote health and prevent disease, and to serve patients and families.

At this time of the year, many of us are able to take time off to celebrate the holidays with friends and family. But, for many UMHS faculty and staff who work at our hospitals, a holiday is simply another workday.

Our hospitals operate 24/7/365. Our doors never close – not on holidays, not during inclement weather and not during seasonal downtime enjoyed by others. We are always open and we must always be ready to serve.

I have often asked staff members how they feel about working on special holidays. Without exception, each person shared a version of the same answer. They always take it in stride and are proud to bring a little holiday joy into the lives of our precious patients. They tell me that they and their families are happy to celebrate before or after their shift because they recognize how fortunate they are to have the opportunity to spend time together at home. This is an opportunity that our patients do not have.

These people who sacrifice for others and this commitment to putting our patients and families first are what have always defined Leaders & Best in our Health System.

Every year, thousands of patients spend the holidays in our hospitals and thousands of employees spend their holidays caring for them. I ask you to join me in thanking all of the people in our Health System who give of themselves in the service of others. There is no more admirable or rewarding gift than giving of yourself, your time and your talents to help others, especially when they need it the most. And in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, this message of sacrifice and service has never been more poignant.

This holiday season, let’s keep those families in our thoughts and let’s hope for peace in the New Year.

Ora

Thankful

I am thankful for many things – my wonderful family and friends, a job that I love and a workplace comprised of truly amazing individuals like those featured in this video taken during a visit I made to our KMS building.

Wishing you and your loved ones a festive Thanksgiving!