Jun 30, 2010

Student Quality Leadership Academy

I approached the IHI Open School Student Quality Leadership Academy on June 17th and 18th with a familiar mix of excitement and nervousness. I was excited to be one of a few students chosen to be at the forefront of a national dialogue on quality healthcare improvement, but nervous about what my eventual role would be as a physician-leader.

The conference was one interactive session after another, on such issues as leading change, teamwork and conflict resolution. The days flew by without much of an opportunity for reflection. Fortunately, I was taking the bus back to New York City and we hit bumper to bumper traffic.

It was then, while sitting on the bus behind a group of chatty blondes that I finally realized just how energizing the conference was. I learned that although there are plenty of people who believe that our patchwork medical system is too broken to be fixed, there are many individuals who are willing to change it. From anecdotes of the Vietnam era, I learned that students can bring about social change by simply changing our mindsets from “If only” to “What if” and imagining the possibilities.

I learned that while physicians tend to demand excellence, failure is acceptable too. In the words of one of the panelists, Dr. Karen Boudreau, “Worry if you’re not failing, because that means you’re not pushing yourself as far as you need to go.” Dr Boudreau and the other speakers on the panel described a mix of opportunity and chance to allow them to become the leaders they are today.

I realized that while my discovery of the IHI Open School was completely accidental, I had been given an amazing opportunity to lead my school chapter and educate others. It was then as I was approaching the Manhattan skyline that I stopped seeing myself as an accidental leader and believed that I could bring about change, regardless of how incremental. After all, getting started is often the hardest part.

Riddhi S. Shah, MS IV

Ross University School of Medicine