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Meet a Regional Leader: Five Questions for Ross Hilliard

By IHI Open School | Thursday, September 3, 2015
The Open School network is growing — and our Regional Leaders are here to support your Chapter whether you’re a start-up or well-established. 

What do Regional Leaders do? They’re long-time members of the Open School who can help Chapters on a one-to-one basis. Try them out when you have questions about planning events, finding resources in the Open School, connecting with other Chapters in your region, or brainstorming activities for your Chapter.

To highlight the expertise of our Regional Leaders, we’re bringing you the "Meet a Regional Leader" series on this blog. So far, we’ve heard from Jo Inge Myhre, MD, who supports Continental Europe from Oslo, Norway, and Andy Carson-Stevens, MD, who supports the UK and Ireland. Last week, we met Valerie Pracilio, who is one of two Regional Leaders in the Northeast. Today, we're featuring her counterpart Dr. Ross Hilliardan attending physician in General Internal Medicine at Brown University. Say hello to Ross at ne.ihi.openschool@gmail.com.

OS: Why did you go into health care?

Ross: I was always interested in the sciences, and was fascinated when I first learned about cardiac physiology.  After exploring basic science research, I realized that I was most fulfilled when working with people, especially if I had the ability to help them. This is the most important element of my profession: the ability to build relationships and help people, especially in the most difficult periods of their lives.

OS: Why does quality improvement matter to you?

Ross: Almost all health professionals are witnesses to a severe adverse patient event at some point in their career. I witnessed mine early in my medical school training. An otherwise healthy patient in his 40s was admitted for pneumonia, and should have been placed on a medication to prevent blood clots, but at that point, the system relied on the physician to remember to order it. The patient died from a completely preventable fatal pulmonary embolism — a blood clot in the lungs. That experience has proven to be a centering experience for me, and has driven my work with IHI and the Open School, as well as within my own hospital system. Health professionals are human beings working in an imperfect system, and I feel we all have an obligation to improve these systems so we are able to provide the care we would all like to give every day. As I moved through my training and into my career, I realized I have an opportunity to have meaningful impact on our system through informatics, and this is now a core focus of mine.

OS: What was your best moment with the Open School community?

Ross: As we were starting the IHI Open School Chapter at the University of South Carolina, the Chapter hosted an event to introduce students of multiple health professions to a local health system’s efforts to improve the patient flow in their Emergency Department. Over the course of the evening, students worked together to identify unnecessary steps, needless delays, and opportunities for improvement.  Listening to their ideas and findings was profound, and remains a reminder to me of the power that students and trainees have to make sweeping, positive change in health care systems.

OS: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you.

Ross: I performed in musical theater growing up, and I continue to enjoy it as a member of the audience now.

OS: What one piece of advice would you give a new Chapter?

Ross: Don’t underestimate the value that can be gained by reaching out to students and practitioners in different health professions. An interdisciplinary group allows your Chapter’s efforts to expand rapidly.  Also, use the tools shared by the IHI Open School; You can learn a great deal by hearing from Chapters around the country and the globe. I’d be remiss if I didn’t encourage Chapters to reach out to their Regional Leaders for support — we’re here to help!

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