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Making the New Guys Feel Welcome

By Kathryn Crimmins | Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hi! My name is Katie Crimmins, and I’m the new Project Assistant for the IHI Open School. I began a six-month co-op with the IHI Open School in July. I’m a senior year English major at Northeastern University, and I’ll be working with the IHI Open School (and with you) until late December.


These first few months of my co-op have been one big crash course in IHI, quality improvement, and health care education – during my second week on the job, the IHI Open School hosted its second annual Student Quality Leadership Academy (SQLA) here in Boston. I don’t think I could have had a better (or faster!) introduction to the IHI Open School and its impressive Chapter Network.


SQLA Tweet
Carly, me, and Rachel celebrating our 3000th tweet at SQLA.


Last Wednesday, I visited the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Medical School Chapter for their first event of the year. Chapter Leaders, including Reza, Anna, and Chi, among others, invited members of the IHI Open School team to their Quality Improvement Kickoff Dinner on their campus in Worcester, MA. The guest of the evening was John Halamka – he’s the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston (BIDMC), a professor at Harvard Medical School, and a novice farmer and blogger in his downtime. He gave an engaging speech on quality improvement methods happening at BIDMC, and also spoke about meaningful use of care and innovation in data collection and sharing.


Admittedly, I arrived at the event feeling a little out of my league – there I was, an undergraduate liberal arts major with only a basic understanding of QI, in a room full of graduate students and health professionals discussing high-level health care reform and improvement. Would this all go over my head? I felt like a freshman again, nervous about my first day of classes.


Here are the ways UMass made me feel welcome, and tips for any Chapter inviting newcomers to their meetings this year:


- They made introductions easy and delicious.
It wasn’t long after entering the university’s amphitheater when I was introduced to Reza – and the impressive buffet of Indian food lined up at the front of the room.


Sharing food or freebies, like our pens and postcards, is one easy way to get the conversation flowing among strangers.



My plate overshadowed my notebook.

- They chose a topical speaker.
Did you know that last week was Health IT Week? This nationally recognized week of discussion and collaboration among health care information specialists coincided with BIDMC ranking as the #1 technology innovator in the United States by InformationWeek 500. As the CIO of BIDMC, Halamka had many thought-provoking things to say about innovation in health IT, discussing the use of social networks in health care as well as the creation of digital ecosystems of care management.


Choosing a speaker who has something to say about what’s happening in the moment is a great way to both garner interest for your event as well as hold the interest of your attendees.


- They broke up the event with questions, activities, and seconds.
One of the best things about attending this event was witnessing Halamka’s ability to weave personal anecdotes in and out of his lecture. He often spoke about his experience with the health care industry both as a patient and as the spouse of a patient receiving sometimes less-than-perfect care. The UMass Chapter coupled this lecture with an appropriate case study focused on access to patient data – and an offer for seconds from their gorgeous buffet.


UMMS meeting

John Halamka addressing the group Wednesday night in Worcester.


Keep your event engaging with a variety of activities; providing a case study or other interactive activity is a great compliment to any lecture. If you’ll only have time for a speaker, you can engage your audience with breaks for questions and answers instead.


- They brought a diverse group of people into one room and got them talking.
The UMass Chapter Kickoff Dinner wasn’t just for students – Faculty Advisors and fellow professors, doctors, and other educators were invited to attend Halamka’s lecture, too. After Halamka spoke, Chapter Leaders divided members into small groups led by a faculty member to work on a case study.


Networking opportunities are an important advantage to being part of the IHI Open School – give your members the chance to form and build on relationships not only with faculty, but with students from other disciplines. Using UMass’s case study method is an easy way to get faculty directly engaged with your members.


As someone who falls under that “other disciplines” umbrella, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I related to and understood what Halamka spoke about on Wednesday night. I was reminded that successful – and accessible –communication is a nonnegotiable requirement for success in any industry.


If you’re interested in finding speakers, case studies, or other resources for your next Chapter event, make sure to check out the Chapter Activity Center for our latest offerings and advice.

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