Why It Matters
IHI created the David Calkins Scholarship to help students attend the National Forum. David's son talks about why this is a meaningful way to honor his father.
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A Son Remembers His Father's Commitment to Improvement

By Jo Ann Endo | Friday, September 9, 2016
Chris Calkins David Calkins

To honor David R. Calkins (1948-2006), MD, MPP, IHI created the David Calkins Memorial Scholarship, awarded annually to a student who demonstrates a commitment to quality improvement so he or she can attend IHI’s National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care. In this interview, David's son, IHI Research Assistant Christopher Calkins, talks about what the scholarship means to him.

You've been part of the David Calkins Memorial Scholarship selection committee for the last several years. What has that experience been like for you?

It’s really nice to have my dad’s life and work acknowledged in this way. Teaching was always a huge part of his life. Being able to pass something on to the next generation of physicians was really important to him. I think he would be absolutely thrilled that something in his name is going to provide an opportunity like going to the Forum.

Being part of the process of reading the students’ essays and choosing the scholarship winner was my first real meaningful connection to IHI. It’s been a fun experience to work with the team here reading about all the amazing improvement work students are doing.

I hope helping students attend the Forum will give them an experience that will arm them with quality improvement tools that will set them on the right track in their career. I hope it gives them a foundational experience they can then take forward into the rest of their lives.

What is your favorite part of choosing the Calkins Scholarship winners?

My favorite moment is after we’ve made our selection and we get to learn about the person who is doing the wonderful work we’ve read about. We make the selection blinded, with all the identifying information removed from the essay, so it’s definitely a highlight when we get to learn more about the writer. It’s also fun to hear about how they responded when they heard they won!

Have you ever met any of the Calkins Scholarship winners?

I met Amanda Hobbs, last year’s winner, at the Forum when I was down in Orlando helping attendees as an IHI staff member. I took a selfie with her for my mom!

Your mother also helps choose the Calkins winners. What’s it been like for your mother to have you take part in this process?

It’s been fun for her to see me taking an interest in work that meant so much to my dad. When he was alive, I was too young to really know about medicine, much less quality improvement. I think she’s enjoyed seeing me develop my own interest in medicine and to have it lead me to working here at IHI.

What do you want people submitting essays for the Calkins Scholarship to know about your father?

At the end of the day, everything he did as a physician was for his patients. When he was being treated [for cancer], he would stay at IHI until the wee hours of the morning because he wanted to finish [the 100,000 Lives Campaign How-to Guides] before his surgery. He wanted people to take the work forward so it could reach as many people as possible.  

I remember how happy he was working on the Campaign. He was like a kid in a candy store. For someone who has terminal cancer to find that much joy in something is pretty impressive. That’s my enduring memory of him during his time at IHI.

The deadline for the David Calkins Memorial Scholarship for full-time students is Saturday, October 15, 2016.

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