Patrick G. Awuah Jr. on Courage

I love this comment on courage made by Patrick G. Awuah Jr., founder and president of Ghana’s Ashesi University College, during a speech at Babson College:

To really make change, we must have courage: the courage to imagine something new, the courage to act, and the courage to persist through setbacks. We all recognize those leaders whose dramatic acts of courage changed the world.

We are well familiar with the actions of political leaders such Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela; of innovators such as Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Bell; and of pioneering scientists such as Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Charles Darwin.

But courage is not always about big, dramatic events. It is often about quiet, determined action every day, at work and at home. The courage to say “Sorry” when you’ve wronged someone. The courage to be introspective and honest with yourself. The courage to join a cause you believe in and to do all you can to help it succeed. The courage to even imagine a different future.


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.

Today, he’s producing a show about his experience called My Other Voice, he’s sharing his story broadly to promote awareness and he is helping to raise funds for cancer research through Pelotonia.

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.


Survival Flight   Memorial Wall

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?

>>>More on the 8Cs

Dr. Steven Gradwohl

This weekend, we lost a beloved member of our Health System family when Dr. Steven Gradwohl, a member of our Medical School faculty since 1994, was killed in an automobile crash on Interstate 94. I know too well the shock of such a tragic loss and my deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues. He will be greatly missed and always remembered. Dr. Gradwohl’s obituary can be found here.

In Celebration of Nurses

“You must never so much think as whether you like it or not, whether it is bearable or not; you must never think of anything except the need, and how to meet it.”  ― Clara Barton, Nurse & Founder of the American Red Cross

Each year for a week, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday on May 12, we celebrate those individuals who have dedicated their lives to a profession that is among the most noble, demanding and rewarding: Nursing.

Nurses are important ambassadors of the patient and family experience because they are on the frontlines delivering care and comfort 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  They are in classrooms, labs and clinics training future generations of nursing professionals and discovering ways to improve care and care delivery. They are in the community working and volunteering at shelters and in schools.  And, across the country, nursing professionals are strong voices for innovation and change when it comes to shaping health care policy and influencing health care reform.

Under the steadfast leadership of Kate Potempa, Dean of the U-M School of Nursing, and Margaret Calarco, Chief Nurse at UMHHC, nursing at Michigan is thriving and our institution continues to be regarded as one of the country’s best academic nursing centers.  The School’s Master’s Program is the sixth best in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, its research-focused Ph.D. programs rank in the National Research Council’s top 5 percent and it ranks sixth in NIH research funding. Additionally, it is a hub of groundbreaking innovation, as demonstrated by being the first U.S. nursing school to partner with the Peace Corps’ Masters International Program, achievement of a 5-year grant to fund the prestigious Hillman Scholars Program in Nursing Innovation, and, in partnership with the UMHS nursing community, establishing the Clinical Initiative for Excellence in Education, Practice and Scholarship to improve the quality and safety of nursing care practice and delivery. UMHS nurses have influenced the profession by publishing more than 50 manuscripts and book chapters this past year alone and presenting more than 70 paper and poster presentations to national and international audiences. Additionally, the Health System’s new Nursing governance model is enabling deeper partnerships with patients and families and establishing new models of nursing care.  As clinical mentors to the hundreds of nursing students we serve, our nurses join with nursing students and faculty to educate our next generation of nurses and create the future of health care delivery.

From care at the bedside to outpatient appointments to nursing education and research to professional and peer support and mentorship, there is no more committed community of nurses than the 4,000 plus nursing professionals at Michigan.

While it shouldn’t take a national event to remind us to thank the incredible nursing professionals who enable excellence across our Health System and University, there certainly is no better time for all of us to offer gratitude to the nursing heroes, teachers, mentors and leaders in our community. Thank you for all that you do!!